Mysterious Maine: Maine’s Specter Moose
A giant specter moose? Believe it or not, it was a tail that struck fear into the grizzliest of woodsmen in Maine.
This weekend it's all about moose in Skowhegan. Hunters will be gathering at the Maine Moose Festival in hopes of being selected for a moose hunting permit. Over 54,000 people applied for the privilege, and only 2,500 of them will be selected.
In anticipation for the big event, how about a moose ghost story. It's definitely a strange tail from the Maine woods, but at the time there were many reports of a huge all white moose. Their accounts of the beast were reported in newspapers around the state and the New York Times. Maine's specter moose would appear in newspaper headlines 1901, 1917 and 1932.
In the book Strange Maine by Michelle Souliere, newspapers described the specter moose as being white in color, standing at 13 feet tall, with a rack width of 10 feet. The use of the word "specter" likely is because of the moose's fur color, not that it's a ghost.
According to Souliere's book, the origins of the monstrous moose stem from an article in the New York Times, November 5, 1899. The article was reported out of Bangor, where a man claimed to first see the ghostly looking moose near Lobster Lake in Northern Maine. Folks who encountered the moose were terrified by it. One man saying he abandoned his bicycle and quickly climbed a tree after it charged at him.
So what were these witnesses seeing? They may have in fact seen a giant moose that was white or gray in color. White moose are extremely rare, but not unheard of, or unseen. In August 2017, a video of an all white moose in Sweden went viral. An article in National Geographic explains that the moose has a condition known as piebald. It stems from a recessive gene that causes the animal to grow white fur with specks of brown. These rare moose have also been seen in Canada and Alaska. It isn't crazy to think perhaps one of these moose at one point migrated into Maine. By the way, it's illegal in Canada to kill a moose that's more than 50% white.
Something we're sadly too aware of in Maine is how ticks have lessened the moose population. A "Ghost Moose" is a term biologists have coined for sickly moose who have been fed on by thousands of ticks. The infected moose look like the walking dead with their gaunt bodies, patches of bare skin and grayish fur.