Grand Portage, Minn.– For moose, this year’s winter-long deep freeze across the Upper Midwest is truly ideal weather. The large, gangly creatures are adapted to deep snow: their hollow fur insulates them like fiberglass does in a house. And the prolonged cold helps eradicate pests that prey on moose, like ticks and meningeal worm, or brain worm. Yet moose in Minnesota are dying at an alarming rate, and biologists are perplexed as to why.
In the 1980’s moose numbered about 4,000 in the northwest part of the state: today, there are about 100 or so. In Northeast Minnesota, the population has dropped by half since 2006, to 4,300 from more than 8,800. In 2012, the decline was steep enough-35%- that the state and local Chippewa tribes, which rely on moose meat for subsistence, called off the moose hunt. The mortality rate rebounded slightly this year, but moose continue to die at twice the normal rate to sustain a population. Researchers elsewhere, along the southern edge of moose territory in New Hampshire and Montana, are also beginning to notice declines in the animals numbers.
Seth More, a wildlife biologist in Grand Portage, theorizes that recent years of warmer, shorter winters and hotter, longer summers have resulted in a twofold problem. The changing climate has stressed out the moose, compromising their immune systems. And warmer temperatures have allowed populations of white-tailed deer, carriers of brain worm-which is fatal to moose to thrive.
Still, ” I’m not necessarily convinced that brain worm is the silver bullet that’s killing all of the moose,” Dr. Moore said. “There are a number of different issues.”
Michelle Carstensen, who is leading a $1.2 million moose mortality study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that is now in it’s second year, has been trying to pinpoint an underlying cause. Dr. Carstensen’s team has captured and collared more than 200 moose, outfitting them with GPS devices that beam the animals coordinates and temperature data every few hours.
Yet the data coming back have been anything but conclusive, and Dr. Carstensen said that even if it can be confirmed that climate change is to blame, there may be little to be done.
“If we can really pinpoint the overlying cause, then can we even do anything about it?” she said. “Or are we really just documenting a species on its way out of our state?”.
That was an article by Brent McDonald in the New York Times from information by Minnesota MPR. This was an interesting article and has been a subject I have been interested in myself. Global Warming? Conflicting information on that but there are less Moose now than a few years ago. Hopefully the studies find the reason why we have a decline in the Moose population.
Two years ago where we hunt north of Duluth, we have always seen signs of Moose. Did not see any tracks this year. Did see some sign last year. I’ts an awesome sight to see one of these majestic animals in the wild.