(CNN)A "dramatic increase" in winter ticks affecting moose in Vermont has officials proposing a moose hunt to lessen the impact of the parasites on the animals' population.
Huge numbers of ticks are wreaking havoc on the moose population in Vermont
One moose was found with as many as 90,000 winter ticks on its body, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said.
Winter ticks are parasitic mites that can grow over half an inch, and they are known to target moose. In the northeastern corner of Vermont, moose density is more than one moose per square mile -- higher than any other part of the state, the department said.
Officials are hoping to reduce the population of moose in order to cull the number of winter ticks.
"Moose densities greater than one per square mile support high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival," said Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist Nick Fortin.
More than half of moose calves in the area have died in recent winters because of blood loss caused by winter ticks.
The Fish and Wildlife Department proposed the moose hunt to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board at a February 19 meeting. The hunt would be limited to 33 moose.
The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of hosts for winter ticks, thereby reducing the impact of winter ticks on the moose population.
"Research has shown that lower moose densities, like in the rest of Vermont, support relatively few winter ticks that do not impact moose populations," said Fortin. "Reducing moose density decreases the number of available hosts which in turn decreases the number of winter ticks on the landscape."
Fortin said he believes that if they don't intervene, the health of the moose population in the area will continue to be impacted by high tick loads for years to come.