Maine moose population 'walking dead' after ticks drain blood due to climate change

Researchers in New England say that warmer weather caused by climate change has allowed ticks to thrive, and devastated the moose population by literally draining them of blood.

In a segment on PBS Newshour this week, reporter Hari Sreenivasan traveled to New Hampshire and Maine, where teams were tagging moose with radio transmitters to better understand why the animal population was in steep decline.

Film crews were there the day that researches found one dead calf covered in winter ticks.

"Literally, this is the walking dead," University of New Hampshire wildlife ecology professor Peter Pekins explained. "The animal is totally emaciated. And there is no way it can survive."

"They are literally being sucked dry of blood. So, they can’t consume protein to replace the blood loss," Perkins pointed out. "Their only choice is to catabolize their own tissues. And that is going to be their muscles. The hind legs on a moose are some the most powerful legs in North America. And that animal doesn’t have any. And it’s because it has chewed up its own body to survive as long as it can."

According to scientists, warmer weather has caused an explosion in the tick population.

And the National Wildlife Federation’s Eric Orff expected that the problem would get worse as climate change accelerates.

"In New Hampshire, our winters have warmed some four degrees since 1970," Orff said. "So, the warming of the winter means less snow, means more ticks, means fewer moose."

He has asked the outdoor industry to help pressure lawmakers into reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change.

"In my lifetime, as a wildlife biologist, I witnessed the disappearance of winter here in New Hampshire," Orff observed. "So we really need to curb carbon, get off the carbs world, and we need to put this earth on a diet of carbs, carbon, and bring back winter."

Watch the video below from PBS' Newshour, broadcast April 7, 2014.

[Photo: Wild Moose in the mountains, Kananaskis country Alberta via]