METABOLIC IMPACTS OF WINTER TICK INFESTATIONS ON CALF MOOSE
Moose (Alces alces) are susceptible to late winter mortality from infestation of winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) throughout much of North America. Calves, perhaps more so than other ages of moose, likely experience chronic, and eventually acute anemia from blood removal by adult female ticks that peaks during weeks 4 – 6 of the 8-week engorgement period. We modeled the potential metabolic impact on protein and energy balance of moose calves associated with blood loss during four levels, low to severe, of winter tick infestation. Our conservative estimates indicated that total blood loss in weeks 4 – 6, as a percent of total blood volume, ranged from 27 to 48% and 64 to 112% during moderate (30,000 ticks) and severe (70,000 ticks) infestations, respectively. The percent of the daily metabolizable energy requirement needed to replace daily blood loss during weeks 4 – 6 was 4.9 – 8.2% and 11.4 – 19.2% during moderate and severe infestations, respectively. The protein deficit associated with blood loss and regeneration was the most critical metabolic impact. Daily protein loss during weeks 4 – 6 was 29 – 49% and 68 – 114% of the daily protein requirement in moderate and severe infestations, respectively. Daily protein losses of ~ 30 to > 100%occurred for 2 continuous weeks. Energy costs associated with compensating for blood loss would likely elevate the daily energy deficit normal at end of winter, accelerate nutritional decline and weight loss, and cause increased physiological stress related to concurrent anemia. Severely infested calves are obviously susceptible to late winter mortality, and the impact of moderate infestations would be exacerbated by secondary parasitic infestations, severe winters, and poor body condition.
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