A winter tick is the size of a grain of sand, but thousands of bloated ticks can drain a Moose of a lot of blood and transform the host into a pale-skinned, infested giant called a ghost moose.
At the end of summer, ticks congregate by the thousands, waiting for an encounter with a tasty host. When a moose forages for food, the carbon dioxide from its breath attracts ticks to its body. And unknowingly, the moose becomes a blood meal to hungry ticks.
By some estimates, winter ticks can drain a moose calf of half its blood. And by another report, a dead adult moose was found with over 100,000 engorged ticks latched onto its skin. In the winter months when food is hard to come by, feeding ticks are plump and full, while their host is starving.
Moose with severe parasite infestations will display visible pale skin as they vigorously rub their coats in an attempt to rid themselves of ticks.
When the parasites are plump and full of blood, females will drop from the moose and lay eggs. And in the early springtime, the rest of the ticks will generally release from the host and fall into the snow and perish. But as the world warms and falling ticks are able to survive and multiply will Alaska face a terrible plague of multiplying parasites?
Watch Moose: Titans of the North on Nat Geo Wild on Monday November 1 at 10P et/pt to learn out more about this incredible species.
Video Preview: Even in a quiet suburb, moose in Anchorage can still fall prey to tragic grizzly attacks, their calves struck down by strong paws.