Pictures of this ailing moose have been circulating online recently, and the mystery of what caused it to look like this has not only caused speculation among casual observers, but wildlife biologists as well. From first glance, the moose looked like it had been badly burned at some time in the past, resulting in patches of lost fur and what appear to be lesions. However, the woman who photographed the moose, Alaska resident Patricia Grenier, says she believes it was actually the scars of a brutal bear attack.
“That moose had been attacked by a bear by a neighbor’s house,” Grenier told the Alaska Dispatch News. “(It) was gone and everybody thought it had died, but then it was back and it was in my neighbor’s yard.”
She had originally taken the photos near Glen Alps last year, but the pictures showed up again last month on social media and Reddit. Sure enough, the description that came along with the photos also cited the bear attack—but not all were convinced.
“What the hell did the bear do? Light the moose on fire?” wrote on incredulous user on the Reddit thread.
If it was a bear, than the moose could count itself very lucky to have survived. The extent of its injuries and missing fur would indicate that the wounds must have been massive.
Wildlife officials are also skeptical of the bear attack story, and suspect that winter ticks might be responsible for the hair loss instead. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is aware of this particular moose and even attempted to capture it several months back. Unfortunately for the moose, game wardens had planned to euthanize it when it was found. They never did find the “zombie” moose, but officials are still concerned that the same ticks that have been plaguing moose in other states finally arrived in Alaska.
Ticks may be small, but they can result in very harmful health effects. Heavy infestations can result in hair loss, behavioral changes, and even massive blood loss. Recently, states like Idaho have reported sightings of so-called “ghost moose,” or moose so infected with ticks that they appear white, hairless, and gaunt.
“Infested moose can have tens of thousands of ticks,” the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (DFG) said in a press release. “One dead moose was documented to have over 100,000 ticks. Pity the biologist who had to do that necropsy and count them!”
Thankfully for Alaska’s moose, the ticks thrive more in warmer climates or especially mild winters.
“This particular tick will not attach to a human. However, a moose infested with them can become so agitated that the moose becomes aggressive toward people and poses a potential danger,” the Idaho DFG stated. “If you see a ‘ghost moose’, stay away. The stressed and irritated moose may become aggressive and could cause severe injury or death to a person.”
Grenier says she has not seen the moose since she took the photos and it is not known whether it still survives.