Jun 1, 2015

What's a Ghost Moose? How Ticks Are Killing an Iconic Animal

New Hampshire
USA
by
Christine Dell'Amore
,
National Geographic
A female "ghost moose" with severe hair loss is seen in springtime in New Hampshire. Photo: Daniel Bergeron
A female "ghost moose" with severe hair loss is seen in springtime in New Hampshire. Photo: Daniel Bergeron

a "ghost moose" [is] an animal so irritated by ticks that it rubs off most of its dark brown hair, exposing its pale undercoat and bare skin.

With their skinny necks, emaciated bodies, and big, hairless splotches, these moose look like the walking dead as they stumble through the forest.

And in recent years in New England, ghost moose sightings have become increasingly familiar.

The reason is likely climate change, biologists say, which is ushering in shorter, warmer winters that are boosting the fortunes of winter ticks. The tiny creatures latch on to moose here in staggering numbers: One moose can house 75,000 ticks, which are helping to drive a troubling rise in moose deaths, especially among calves