Clip | Moose: Life of a Twig Eater - Brain Parasite Turns Moose Into Zombies

Moose populations have declined in recent years and scientists still aren’t sure of the cause. A brain parasite, normally found in white-tailed deer, may be partially to blame.

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What we have found in the last year is that five out of our six moose mortalities that occurred on our collared animals were health-related issues, not predation related issues.

The moose cows that we've been collaring, when they give birth, are in much worse health than they should be.

And we think that that may contribute to them being less effective in terms of protecting their calves from predation.

-MAN: Yeah, she's a big old girl.

-MOORE: Mm-hmm. Well, I hope that tick issue isn't too bad for her.

I'm very concerned that winter ticks are impacting moose.

When tick populations are high, there can be very high tick loads on an individual animal, and that can cause hypothermia because they rub their hair off.

And in addition to that, it can cause the moose to become anemic from blood loss.

Put it in there? -MAN: I did, I put it in.

-MOORE: Cool, thanks.

Ticks aren't the only tiny animal that can bring down a moose.

There are a lot of different things that could be affecting this animal, but the leading thing that I would think of is probably brainworm.

Brainworm is a parasite that's carried by white-tailed deer.

It doesn't really affect the deer at all.

But when it's in a moose, it looks for the same geography that it finds in a deer.

In looking for that geography, it tunnels through the brain of a moose, and it causes a lot of neurological damage.

Essentially, the moose becomes a walking zombie.

It's a horrible way for an animal to die.