Ghost Moose of The Great North Woods
Moose Are On The Move
I spent last weekend hiking and kayaking in northern New Hampshire and experienced some unforgettable wildlife moments. Among them were over a dozen moose sightings during the dawn and dusk hours. I saw a few in the afternoon as well, but the early morning proved to be the best time for photo ops. Some of the bulls are just beginning to show signs of new antler growth, and the cows still have another month or so left of pregnancy. Neither of them seemed the least bit interested in me as they gorged on salt licks and waded through the marshes of the Great North Woods Region.
This scene will be changing soon as the calves are born, and the bulls start putting on a half inch of new antler growth each day. Moose antlers are one of the fastest growing animal organs, reaching up to five feet across at their height. Hopefully I’ll find some time to check up on the progress and photograph them throughout the summer.
Winter Ticks in the Thousands
One of the more alarming sights of the weekend was the number of moose I saw that were heavily infested with winter ticks. These parasites can wreak havoc on moose, and are proving to be quite prolific as both temperatures and moose populations rise. Severe cases can lead to anemia and may even result in death. A single moose can be infected with as many as 100,000 winter ticks feeding on a blood meal. Blood loss is not the only consequence though. Infected moose spend their time itching, scratching, and rubbing when they should be feeding and resting. With dietary demands approaching 10,000 calories a day, efficient time management is essential for a moose’s survival.
Incessant scratching can be very damaging to a moose’s winter coat. Ecologist Susan Morse recently wrote in Northern Woodlands magazine that moose may lose between 40%-100% of their insulating hair by April. This awful condition makes them highly susceptible to hypothermia. The loss of hair and emaciation leaves them pale in color which has given rise to the nickname “ghost moose” in Canada.
Check out this very moving and somewhat creepy clip on the menacing winter tick, and the role that climate change is playing in their advancement.