Sunday, October 28, 2012

10-28-12: More Notes: A moose on the summit of Mt. Washinton, a photo from 1983 by Al Oxton.

This is a famous photo that was taken by Al Oxton in the fall of 1983 of a moose hiking up the Crawford Path. The photo was first published on the cover of the November 1983 AMC Bulletin. At the time Oxton was on the crew of the Obs (Mt. Washington Weather Observatory) and spotted the moose from the kitchen window. He used a telephoto lens. The moose was eventually corralled by Fish and Game Department personnel and eventually was "put down" because it was suspected that it was quite sick and suffering from parasites lodged in its brain. That turned out to be the case, but still a sad story.

There is another story contained in this photo about the types of parasites that infect moose and white tailed deer in New England and that, in the past, may have had a dramatic impact on the population numbers of these ungulates. The parasite is a worm, Parelaphostrongylus tenuis, which has long been found in white tailed deer and generally does not harm the deer. The life cycle of these worms is complicated. They first appear in the space between the deer's/moose's skull and the brain where females lay eggs that become larvae that pass through the moose's bloodstream to its lungs. The larvae are coughed up by the deer or moose and land on the ground where they are eaten by snails and slugs. Then, moose and deer, inadvertently eat the small snails when they are browsing foliage. The larvae then make it back to the deer's and moose's brain to complete another cycle. The caveat is that the moose's brain, unlike the deer's, isn't a suitable environment for the adult worms to produce eggs. Instead the moose becomes gravely ill, develops symptoms just like the moose in the photo did of stumbling, acting erratically, walking in circles, and appearing tame. In the wild, the moose eventually dies.

When Al took this photo, in 1983, the moose were just making a come back in the White Mountains  after being completely absent, at least south of Route 2, for many years.

I received the following email this morning from an old friend which I want to pass along because there may be some naturalists and, particularly "birders", who might have an interest:

Hi Alex,

I remember hiking up Tuckerman's ravine trail with you in 1984? as well as conversing in a few social occasions allied with the MCZ Entomology crew when you were going out with our dept. assistant who's name is escaping me momentarily.

Anyway I came across your blog by chance and became heady with the delicious memories it evoked of the Whites where I honed my naturalist skills. I have been immersed in the Andes for 23 years now and distracted by the great bird continent but longingly observe the whites as we sometimes drive from Boston to Ottawa through the notch to visit Sherry's family.

Keep up the great blogging and if you know of any birders headed to Ecuador or the Galapagos I can help :) !


Charlie Vogt

General Manager, Andean Birding
Salazar Gómez E-1482 y Eloy Alfaro

1 comment:

Dr. Jack Share said...

verforuAlex, I stumbled on your blog while researching alpine plants. Nice photos and commentary! Well done! Doctor Jack.