Poster Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Intensive health screening of moose at the edge of their range (#184)

Krysten Schuler 1 , Nicole Dean 1 , Benjamin Tabor 2 , Heather Priest 1 , Nina Schoch 3 , Edward Dubovi 1 , Amy Glaser 1 , Janine Brown 4 , Paul Schuette 5 , Kevin Hynes 2
  1. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States
  2. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany , New York
  3. Biodiversity Research Institute, Portland, Maine
  4. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia
  5. State University of New York - Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York

Moose in the Adirondacks region of northern New York State represent the southern extent of the eastern moose (Alces alces) subpopulation. Population density estimates and health information in this area are lacking. We captured 12 moose via helicopter for health assessment and fitted them with GPS collars to document spatial patterns and conduct sightability surveys. On site, animals were checked for ectoparasite presence and load, body condition was estimated, and whole blood, serum, feces, ectoparasites, and hair samples were collected. Samples from 9 females and 3 males were examined for complete blood count, blood chemistry, selenium, fecal parasites, and infectious diseases (bovine viral diarrhea, eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, and Neospora). Females were additionally screened for serum and fecal progesterone and fecal glucocorticoid metabolites using both cortisol and corticosterone immunoassays. Hands-on evaluation found fewer ectoparasites (e.g., winter tick, Dermacentor albipictus) than other moose in eastern states. However, most moose had high eosinophil counts (mean = 33%) and eight of 11 were positive and the remaining three were suspicious for Neospora caninum. Eosinophilia has been linked previously to migrating parasites and could be related to the Neospora infection. However, Parelaphostrongylus tenuis (i.e., white-tailed deer brainworm or meningeal worm) and Fascioloides magna (i.e., giant liver fluke) have been found before in New York moose mortalities. These species were not detectable in moose fecal exams. Additionally, selenium values in blood were below detectable limits. This area is known to be selenium limited, but also high in mercury that may limit bioavailable selenium. Low circulating selenium and Neospora may be impacting reproductive potential. We contrast our findings with other moose populations across their range to determine if New York moose face unusual health challenges that impede formation of a robust population or further southern expansion of their range.