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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Over the past several decades, moose (Alces alces) populations in New England have been in decline due to winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) parasitism. Winter ticks have been known to infest moose, with over 90,000 ticks being recorded on a single moose. These severe infestations, known as epizootics, are associated with high annual calf mortality rates (> 50%) and reductions in annual productivity (adult calving and twinning rates < 60% and 5%, respectively). Given this, it is increasingly important to effectively monitor moose and winter ticks to address consistent population decline of moose due to winter tick epizootics. The objectives of this work were to measure off-host winter tick abundance and associated environmental variables and compare off-host tick abundance in relation to moose abundance.

To assess moose and winter tick abundance, I used a combination of camera traps and winter tick sampling. I set an array of 60 cameras across central-western Massachusetts, which contribute data to the Northeast Wildlife Monitoring Network. I used a plot-based sampling strategy that is effective for heterogenous habitat types to sample winter ticks at sites in western and central Massachusetts as well as the White Mountain National Forest and Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire. The Penobscot Nation developed the tick sampling approach and contributed additional winter tick data from their sovereign trust lands in Maine. I used N-mixture models to generate estimates of tick abundance for each of the three study areas.

Results from this study can inform monitoring strategies for ticks, predict epizootic severity, and develop tools to mitigate threats to moose. This is important for managers looking to prevent further declines in moose populations due to winter ticks and tribes seeking to maintain populations for sustenance.


First Advisor

Tammy Wilson

Second Advisor

Alexej Sirén

Third Advisor

Kelly Klingler