STOCKHOLM, Sweden—The Swedish province of Blekinge has been the site of a curious and unexplained disease that has killed multiple moose over the past months.
The mysterious disease has left the iconic large mammals emaciated, apathetic, and paralyzed. One stricken moose was found blind and another suffered from severe hair loss.
The moose that were found in Blekinge in southern Sweden were between 2 and 7 years old—an age at which they normally should have been in top shape. The total number of moose found so far is 15, but it’s unclear how many more might be dead in the wild.
Samples have been taken and a whole moose has been sent in for examination to the National Veterinary Institute in Uppsala, roughly 350 miles further north.
“We have received a 7-year-old moose that was emaciated,” said Henrik Uhlhorn, assistant state veterinarian at Sweden’s National Veterinary Institute. Preliminary tests showed the moose to have a parasitic worm infection in its stomach.
A severe worm infestation itself could cause emaciation and death, but it could also be a symptom of another condition such as an impaired immune system.
The institute is planning further analysis and will also launch a field investigation, as emaciation is very rare for adult moose in summer months.
On Oland, Sweden’s second largest island, the mortality of moose calves has also been abnormally high this year, with the cause of death also a mystery.
Moose suffering from unexplained illnesses also turned up at the end of last year in the southern county of Kronoberg. The animals suffered hair loss and some lost their horns. It is still unknown whether there is a connection between the sick moose in Kronoberg and those in Oland and Blekinge.
“Because of these reports of illness and mortality among moose in Blekinge, we have urged all hunters to report to us if they find sick moose,” said Jan Ingvarsson from the Blekinge Hunters’ Association.
“Since we do not know anything about the disease, we do not know if it will affect this year’s hunt, but we have people investigating the matter,” said Christina Nilsson Day, director of Communications at the Swedish Hunters Association.
Moose are a highly acclaimed in Sweden, and have become a symbol of the country’s forest landscape.
There are moose in all parts of Sweden, except on Sweden’s largest island Gotland.
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