Parasite Kills Moose in Delta

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A newly discovered parasite that affects the nervous system has most likely killed at least two moose and possibly more near Delta Junction.

Fish and Game biologists are asking people to keep their eye out for sick or dead moose so they can take biological samples to see if the deaths are related.

The parasite poses no health risk for people, livestock or dogs. It is passed from moose through larvae shed in moose feces that then penetrate a snail. Months later, another moose incidentally swallows the snail while browsing and becomes infected.

One and possibly two of the seven moose found dead so far apparently stumbled and fell repeatedly before dying. After tissue samples were collected and analyzed, one was found to be infected with a worm previously unknown to affect moose in Alaska.

Tissue samples from the other five moose are still being analyzed and results should be available within the next month.

Wildlife veterinarian Kimberlee Beckmen is unsure if the parasite will turn out to be a new species but it is the first report for this type of parasite in the tissues of a moose in the state.

“We have not documented this type of worm causing disease or death in Alaskan moose in the past, but that may be because we haven’t looked closely enough,” Beckmen said. “We need to study more samples to determine if it’s a new occurrence, or if it’s been here all along.”

“If people see moose acting strangely, we’d appreciate a call,” said Delta Area Biologist Steve DuBois. “We’d like to take a closer look at these animals while the tissue is fresh enough so we can still perform a necropsy and look for signs of the parasite.”

Alaska residents see moose carcasses every spring and usually attribute them to starvation during the winter.

“In some cases, they’re not starving, and we’d like to learn more about what’s affecting them,” DuBois said.

Reports of moose carcasses or strangely behaving moose can be called to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Delta Junction at (907) 895-4484 or the Fairbanks office at (907) 459-7206.