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BBC Autumnwatch, Moose and Ticks

October 19, 2018
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By Paul Homewood

 

 

BBC’s Autumnwatch is coming from New England this year, (which presumably will involve a huge carbon footprint!).

 

In this week’s episode, they take a look at the declining population of moose in New Hampshire, and, you’ve guessed it, its all the fault of climate change!

 

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bp1d04/autumnwatch-2018-episode-3

 

The segment begins at 47 mins in, but the story runs like this:

 

  • The moose population of New Hampshire has declined by 50% in the last 20 years.
  • This decline has been linked to a rise in the number of winter ticks.
  • These ticks climb onto the moose during fall, and drop off in spring. Any who don’t find a host die during the cold of winter.
  • Ticks can sufficiently weaken moose, particularly the young, as to jeopardise their survival and breeding success the following summer.
  • Milder and “later” falls, triggered by climate change, allow more ticks to infest moose, and consequently less will die during the winter.
  • Cue emotive pictures of moose full of tick and dying.

All this sounds perfectly logical, or at least until you examine some of the facts that the BBC forgot to tell you.

For a start, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game moose populations expanded tremendously during the 20thC, before peaking in the 1990s:

 Moose occur in Alaska, Canada, northern U.S. from Washington across to northern New England, and the northern Rockies south to Utah. Prior to European settlement moose were more common than deer in New Hampshire; their range extended from the Canadian border to the seacoast. During a year, moose home ranges vary from less than one square mile to more than 25, depending on the season. By the mid-1800s, fewer than 15 moose existed in New Hampshire. The small number and loss of habitat slowed the recovery of the moose population. The moose herd didn’t begin to rebound noticeably until the early 1970s. By this time, abandoned farmlands and changes in forest practices created a mosaic of mature and young re-growing forests providing excellent moose habitat. When the first moose hunt occurred in New Hampshire in 1988, there were about 1,600 animals in the state. The moose population peaked in the late 1990s, with between 7,000 and 7,500 moose in New Hampshire. Since that time, the population has declined to about 3,500. About half the decline was an intentional response to the public’s desire for fewer moose-car collisions. The other half is due to threats such as winter tick in the north and brainworm in the south. Today moose occur in all ten counties, with the highest densities in the Great North Woods.

https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/profiles/moose.html

 

It seems strange, to say the least, that moose numbers should peak after decades of warming.

It is also notable that winter tick does not seem to be a problem in the south of the state, where it is of course warmer. maybe ticks don’t like warm weather, and a warmer climate would be a good thing for moose!!

 

Indeed, moose have been thriving to such an extent that moose hunts were officially reintroduced in 1988, as part of a management control programme.

But what about those “later falls”?

Well according to NOAA, they are largely a myth, as far as New Hampshire goes at least.

October temperatures have been no higher in recent decades than than the 1940s to 60s, and there seems to be little trend in November temperatures since the 1940s either.

December temperatures do show an upward trend, but by then average temperatures are well below zero anyway, killing the ticks regardless.

 

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https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/statewide/time-series/27/tavg/1/12/1895-2018?base_prd=true&firstbaseyear=1901&lastbaseyear=2000

 

There is a much simpler explanation for what’s been going, and one that does not need the invoking of climate change. Interestingly in his round up, Chris Packham alludes to it.

What we are observing is the simple cyclical relationship of predator and prey. As with any other such relationship, an increasing population of prey will bring about a larger number of predators eventually. As a result, the population of prey drops, in time causing a drop in the numbers of predators, starting the cycle all over again.

As we know, the number of moose in New Hampshire rose dramatically during the 20thC, and that is why we are now seeing increased numbers of ticks.

Although ticks feed off all sorts of animals, they seem to most effectively parasitize moose. Far from being a localised issue in New Hampshire, ticks evidently are a widespread problem for moose across much of their range.

Put simply, there is no evidence that the current problem with tick infestation in New Hampshire is anything new or unprecedented.

 

 

Round Up

There is a interesting footnote to the story.

At the end of the moose segment of Autumnwatch, eco-fanatic Chris Packham and his sidekick, Michaela “look at how famous I am” Strachan sat in their studio and summed up the story.

Strachan made some utterly inane remarks, such as:

“It’s a fascinating story, and a real worry because it’s about climate change”

“The moose are at their most southerly range. They have been pushed down because its warmer. So New England is where you find them in the south.”

 

However, Packham recognises the real issue:

“It is still a natural battle going on between them [moose and ticks], and these sorts of population regulators are intrinsically important in populations for regulating. Otherwise if the moose kept on coming forward, they would get into competition with some of the deer species perhaps”

In other words, it is called mother nature.  And unfortunately nature isn’t about Bambi, and is rarely very pretty either.

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25 Comments
  1. MrGrimNasty permalink
    October 19, 2018 6:52 pm

    I’m sure ticks could be brought under control by a darting program with a suitable pesticide or something like ‘flea powder’ application. What it really tells you is that there are too many Moose for the area. You nearly always get an explosion in pests/diseases under those circumstances until balance is restored – as said in the article really.

    There was another program on Moose the other day, a calf got hunted down by wolves (not a problem in NH I don’t think) and there wan’t much left apart from fur and a bit of leg. What made me laugh was the way they followed the grizzly aftermath with a shot of crows using the calf’s fur to make their nest comfy – the way the crow snuggled down in his new luxurious nest – nothing does to waste in nature.

  2. October 19, 2018 6:56 pm

    Not a coincidence of course that they find a Climate Change story, their advisers know that the programme is their main propaganda outlet, and the whole thing must have been planned many months in advance.

    My theory of the savage evolutionary battle to be and remain a BBC presenter: start with minus one point for each of being male, white, and of UK origin. Now add points for being female, and black/asian/muslim. So how do the white UK males survive? Simple, via bonus points for being woke-green.

    • October 19, 2018 7:19 pm

      You forgot to add points for being disabled and LGBTXYZ. You only have to compare the presenters of Gardener’s World and Countryfile with the presenters of yesteryear to see the change and to realise how low the standard of presenters has become.

      One thing you can be certain of with the BBC: they never miss a single opportunity to blame something on ‘climate change’.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        October 19, 2018 7:56 pm

        I’d be happy if they culled one more oldish white male from the team – Toby Buckland, goodness me what an annoying prat. Almost single handedly killed the program off – why on earth are they letting him slip back in?

      • keith permalink
        October 20, 2018 11:32 am

        I agree, Countryfile is now a load of green crap, and the presenters are mediocre, except Adam. But this is what you get with Diversity, you get mediocrity. People are no longer selected by ability, they are selected by colour or creed.
        Nice to see BBC wasting our licence tax money on sending more so called presenters abroad. Yeah, let them build up their carbon footprint, which we lesser mortals should not be doing. Bl***** hypocrites. But, of course, it is that time of the year with their annual bean feast coming up. Get ready for more lies..

      • dennisambler permalink
        October 23, 2018 5:00 pm

        Keith: “People are no longer selected by ability, they are selected by colour or creed.”

        As with the recent “12 years to disaster” fantasy from the IPCC,

        “IPCC reported that the members of all three IPCC Working Groups carefully considered all nominations and developed the final list of authors and review editors in a detailed and iterative selection process.

        The selection was undertaken according to the Principles Governing IPCC Work, considering the required scientific, technical and socio-economic expertise, geographical representation, gender balance, and the inclusion of experts with and without previous IPCC experience.”

    • Forbes permalink
      October 20, 2018 9:00 am

      Fuck are numerous on UK deer of all species, and the deer population has never been greater.

      • Forbes permalink
        October 20, 2018 9:02 am

        Predictive text! I wrote Tick are numerous …. !

  3. Tom O permalink
    October 19, 2018 7:22 pm

    Of course, left out of the speculation is the return of the pack animals to the area, wolves and coyotes, which will bring down larger animals such as moose. I would guess that the packs can move with much greater ease on crusty snow than can moose. But we wouldn’t want to consider this, one of nature’s methods of keeping populations in check, would we? This is just another one of those predator/prey balances, but it, too, is left “off camera,” so tp speak.

  4. John F. Hultquist permalink
    October 19, 2018 7:41 pm

    Milder and “later” falls, triggered by climate change, allow more ticks to infest moose, and consequently less will die during the winter.

    more

    • October 19, 2018 8:26 pm

      Sorry, John

      Just to clarify, less ticks will die in winter (not moose)

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        October 20, 2018 12:48 pm

        Fewer ticks will die in winter, fewer for numbers. Sounds better as well.

        Not normally a pedant but that one grates a bit after 40 years of Mrs V going on at every occurrence on TV or radio I’ve become infected.

      • Fran permalink
        October 23, 2018 4:20 pm

        fewer, not less

  5. quaesoveritas permalink
    October 19, 2018 8:09 pm

    I am still a bit puzzled over why the Moose are being “pushed south” because it is getting warmer.

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      October 19, 2018 8:10 pm

      Allegedly!

    • HotScot permalink
      October 19, 2018 10:13 pm

      Allergies!

  6. chris moffatt permalink
    October 19, 2018 10:02 pm

    I wonder exactly what this sentence means:

    “About half the decline was an intentional response to the public’s desire for fewer moose-car collisions.”

    I take it to mean that NH Fish & Game department had an organized “cull” of moose in the state and killed about 2,000 of them. Other moose losses are indeed due to car-moose collisions and more losses annually to hunting, legal and illegal, which still continues despite the state’s supposed concern about the declining number of moose. If the ticks really are killing moose they’re getting a deal of help.

    PS I’ve camped and hiked the White Mountains of NH going back to the 1960s and never seen a tick, nor heard of them being in the area.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      October 20, 2018 5:43 am

      These are the BBC ticks and while rare are quite deadly.

  7. paul weldon permalink
    October 20, 2018 8:30 am

    I would have thought if there is a link between autumn temperatures and the winter tick population then the local vet would have been the best person to talk to. Here in the Baltics we have serious tick problems, not so much because of their abundance but because of the diseases they carry. We have to be very careful and it is always good to know how abundant they are at any time of the year. The best sign comes from how they affect our dog and cat, hence the reference to the local vet. We have a good contact to ours, and often discuss their abundance. In general it would seem that they are more abundant in the spring rather than autumn, and are not only temperature sensitive but also to the dryness of the area, hence very few are around in the summer months. The critical temperature is around +5 C, so no good looking at first frosts. The area our vet covers is quite large, and it is often the case that two areas only a few kilometres apart can have quite different situations, one with a plague, the other almost zero. Our main carrier seems to be the local fox, which has increased in population locally (not shot any more). Climate change? Our warmer climate since the 1980s does not seem to have made any difference to the tick population.

  8. MrGrimNasty permalink
    October 20, 2018 9:39 am

    Found this on ticks in the UK.

    https://www.moredun.org.uk/research/diseases/ticks-tickborne-diseases

    Strange how they list the real reason last, and a likely non-problem first!

    The only way to get your research funding these days I expect!

    It’s a bit like how old RSPB reports you sometimes get glimpses of on Google used to be honest about habitat loss etc., but they have all been deleted from the web, and now all their reports have switched to listing climate change as the cause of everything bad or inconvenient.

    • October 20, 2018 10:41 am

      I like the way they talk of “relatively wetter summers”!

  9. October 20, 2018 10:38 am

    In the good, the bad, and the ugly of climate science, climate change impacts research falls in the category of “beyond ugly”.
    hypothetical answers to hypothetical research questions

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/06/21/climate-change-impacts1/

  10. Rudolph Hucker permalink
    October 20, 2018 1:11 pm

    I have reduced my viewing of BBC news programmes. I have lived in rural England for more years than I care to remember. Elderly men and women who worked on the land had great knowledge of the weather, I was often told many times ‘ if you work outdoors you will see 4 seasons in a day.
    I have been lucky to know people whose knowledge of the weather was superior the BBC experts or TOTB ( Talkers of total Bullshit.) as they are known in the Sticks!

    • keith permalink
      October 20, 2018 1:22 pm

      Rudolph I am totally with you. Now never watch BBC News and hardly any BBC programmes. Love the TOTB phrase. I must remember that.

  11. October 20, 2018 10:08 pm

    I think it is important to show daytime maximum temperatures since most have gone down in the USA and probably the world but there is little data. Nighttime lows have gone up since cloud cover has increased aprox 8%, much of it from man made water production from combusting fossil fuels, water pumping etc? This of course raises the average temperature and is blamed on Co2 which is probably a very minor influence when there are so many other warming influences.
    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/statewide/time-series/27/tmax/1/10/1895-2017?base_prd=true&firstbaseyear=1901&lastbaseyear=2000&trend=true&trend_base=10&firsttrendyear=1945&lasttrendyear=2018

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