Reports of mysterious “ghost moose” in Northern Idaho have the Department of Fish and Game saying “beware.”

Calls are coming in about odd-looking moose. They appear partially white, or as one person put it, ‘ghost-like’ in appearance, according to a press release.

Fish and Game biologists are urging caution, but not because the spectral figures are supernatural in origin. Instead they attribute the apparitions to tick infestations, which can give moose a whitish or mottled appearance.

“Moose tick” infestations become visible when moose scratch and paw at their own skin enough to cause large patches of hair to break or fall out. This usually happens during the winter, which is when IDFG begins to get reports of strange looking moose.

Despite this earthly explanation, Fish and Game still urges caution. 

While moose ticks are no danger to humans, they do piss off moose big time. A moose infested with them can become agitated moose highly aggressive toward people to the extent the moose poses a potential danger.

“If you see a ghost moose stay away”, says Fish and game, “The stressed and irritated moose may become aggressive toward people and could cause severe injury or even death to a person.”

Thousands of feeding ticks can kill a moose – through loss of blood, hypothermia due to loss of hair, or starvation when the severe itching causes them to forage less than necessary.

An infested moose may have upwards of 30,000 ticks.  One dead moose was found to have more than 100,000 (pity the poor biologist who had to count those). 

Photo credit: Flickr CC