Moose in NH under severe threat from climate change, expert warns
Shorter winters mean more ticks feeding on moose
Climate change is threatening the survival of moose in New Hampshire as the population of the iconic animal continues to shrink, experts said.
There were 7,000 moose living in New Hampshire when Kristine Rines became the Fish and Game Department's first moose expert. Thirty-five years later, the biologist said, the herd is less than half that size and shrinking.
"As a moose biologist, it makes me very sad," Rines said.
The culprit is the winter tick, which used to die off in winter.
"As our winters have gotten shorter, which is caused by climate change, it's giving ticks a huge advantage," Rines said. "Not only are they killing large numbers of calves, but they're reducing the ability of cows to have calves."
The moose mortality rate is rising. More than 50 percent of moose calves over the past five years have died from anemia and protein deficiencies, Rines said.
"Those calves, they only need about 35,000 ticks on them to die, and we've counted upwards of 90,000," she said.
She fears that moose in New Hampshire could disappear.
"There are a lot of diseases and ectoparasites coming our way that they did not evolve with," she said. "In addition, they are this northern-based species. They're used to colder, cooler conditions. We don't know how heat itself is going to impact them over the long term."
Moose aren't the only iconic New Hampshire species that could disappear. Loons are also being affected by warmer temperatures, according to Rines. She said the only way to slow or stop the effects of climate change is by reducing humanity's carbon footprint.
"If we continue to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist, we're going to see more and more dramatic changes," she said.