Ghost Moose of The Great North Woods

I got a very close look at this girl, who was still wet from a recent rain shower.

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.

This young bull suffered some hair loss and still has a few clusters of winter ticks on his ear and neck.

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.

25 responses

  1. emilygtshipman

    This is an incredible post! I hope your followers realize how rare these shots are.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm

  2. Lee

    Just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Keep up the good work.

    http://leesbird.com/2012/04/23/versatile-blogger-award/

    Lee

    April 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

  3. Great post!

    April 24, 2012 at 6:14 am

    • I remember the first time I saw a moose in the wild in NH about 20 years ago. It was late winter and I thought the poor thing had mange. I suppose it was an infestation of winter ticks after reading your post. I miss seeing moose here in Missouri.

      April 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      • Thanks for joining the discussion Oldentimes! :) Are there any moose left in Missouri today?

        April 26, 2012 at 5:47 am

        • no moose. Recently a herd of elk has been reintroduced near where I live. I hope to get to go see them soon and get some photos. They are of course on a protected area and it will be years, if ever, if they are actually set free to roam.
          We do have lots of wild turkey, whitetail deer,a viable black bear population and some cougars in the area I live in.

          April 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

          • A friend of mine told me I might see bobcat in Missouri…any truth to this?

            April 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

            • Yes there is a possibility, we do have them. I do not appreciate them or foxes getting into my chickens – and they have.
              One raised a litter of kittens in the woods by a friends house, we see them from time to time.
              A bobcat sounds like a woman screaming in terror, really scary in the middle of the night.

              April 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

  4. Beautiful pictures! Looking forward to follow up ones. Did not know of the winter tick in the NE. Don’t remember them from NJ. Thanks for the information. Keep up the great work!! Jay

    April 24, 2012 at 8:12 am

    • Thanks for your comments Jay! Im hoping to track moose antler growth this summer, so Im crossing my fingers that I get the oppurtunity to share the photos. :)

      April 24, 2012 at 8:15 am

  5. TBM

    That’s horrible…they are such wonderful animals.

    April 24, 2012 at 10:11 am

  6. Thank you for a wonderful post. I grew up in Northern Minnesota and loved having the moose among us. The moose population in MN is dwindling due to global warming – they are moving farther north. I didn’t know about the winter ticks. What a horrible thing to be happening to such beautiful animals.

    April 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

    • Thanks for the comment Maralee. :)
      It is really startling to see how many species are already being affected by our warming climate. The ticks on the other hand are doing just fine. Winter ticks and moose have coexisted for a long time, but warm weather is giving ticks the upper hand.
      BTW: I Didn’t know you were from MN…are you familiar with Jim Brandenburg?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:44 am

  7. Wonderful photos …. tried to watch the video but I couldn’t finish it … never heard about those bugs – have to find out the Swedish words for them. Terrible! And me that like bugs – couldn’t handle the video. Sorry! We have loads of Moose or what we call Älg -. Massive animals … my grandpa as a forest caretaker did shot a couple – excellent meat. They are normally quite afraid – but she seems to be comfortable with you around.

    April 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    • Just found out what it’s – ticks … Sweden had the highest rate of tick-borne encephalitis!!! I have a couple of friends that got “bitten” and became very ill. I thought that was it was … but drain a massive moose.

      April 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    • Thanks for sharing your insight Viveka…the video is difficult to watch. People hunt moose here as well. Hunters enter a lottery to try and get one of the limited number of moose tags.
      The moose I encountered last weekend didn’t seem very interested in me. A few ran off, but most didn’t seem bothered. It will, be a different story in a few weeks when the calves are born. :)

      April 26, 2012 at 5:55 am

      • Here you have to have licence to kill .. *smile – but very popular – we get a lot of German hunters over here in the fall. Love the meat – specially hamburgers made out of moose. there is a lot of meat on them. Great photos that you shared with us .. the video was very nasty *smile Looking forward to the calves photos. Good luck hunting with your camera.

        April 26, 2012 at 6:01 am

  8. This is an extremely interesting post. I can’t even imagine an animal having 100,000 ticks clinging to it. How sad for the moose. I’ve never seen this species of moose . so again, very interesting share. :) Thank you.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:25 am

    • Thanks so much orples…glad you enjoyed the post! :)

      April 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  9. oh the poor beasts… I assumed their hair would be so thick that tick’s wouldn’t be able to penetrate. How wrong I was.
    I’ve never seen a moose before, beautiful creatures! Amazing eyes!

    May 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    • Thanks for sharing your thought Kiwidutch. Hopefully the moose will be looking good in their summer coats the next time I post about them. :)

      May 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm

  10. Pingback: Early Antler Growth « Mazzarella Photo

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