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White Colored Moose. Photo by Dave Bell.
© Photo by Dave Bell
White Colored Moose

Hair loss due to ticks commences in late January and gets progressively worse as winter proceeds. Some animals may lose up to 90 percent of their hair coat. Normally, little mortality is associated with this loss.

Tick abundance and the problems associated with them vary from year to year, an event that’s directly related to environmental conditions. Male and female ticks infest moose, but males fall off and die shortly after completing the mating act. Female ticks enjoy a winter blood meal, then fall to the ground in late March and April. If they come to rest on snow, there is a high tick mortality. However, when spring weather is warm and the snow disappears early, female ticks fall onto warm ground and lay a few thousand eggs. The eggs hatch into seed ticks in early August and as the cool days of fall approach they become more active and ascend grasses and other vegetation. When moose brush against vegetation, larval ticks attach to the big animals and an over-winter, development period commences. Ticks like to nestle in a moose’s thick hair (away from the cold) and do so until spring, feeding and maturing the entire time. The peak of transmission during fall takes place in October, after which cold weather puts an end to those little rust-colored devils, which measure about the size of a pinhead. When fall weather conditions are summer-like (i.e. warm and no snow) the transmission period can extend into November. Therefore with warm springs and open falls, conditions are excellent for ticks and we can be sure that the following spring there will be many reports of "ghost moose."

All photographs used on this page are copyrighted by Dave Bell, © 2001-2012, and are used with permission by Pinedale Online. All rights reserved. May not be used without permission. To contact Dave, please e-mail:

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