In one of the most innovative moose research studies ever, in May of 2013, 49 moose calves in northeast Minnesota were fitted with GPS transmitting collars. Just four months later at least 35 are dead.
This is significantly outside of the norm. Worldwide studies indicate that on average, in areas where predators are present, a little more than half of moose calves die in their first year. The Duluth News Tribune reports that lead moose researcher for the Minnesota DNR, Glen DelGiudice, cannot even guess how many of the ten remaining collared calves will survive their first full year (four of the original 49 monitored calves have slipped their collars and their fates are unknown).
DelGiudice does not believe wolves are responsible for the overall decline in the moose population. He does believe that as moose numbers decrease wolf predation may speed their decline. “When we had 9,000 moose and the same number of wolves, the number they took was far less significant and likely not impacting the population,” DelGiudice said. “But with fewer than 3,000 moose now, and roughly the same number of wolves, that predator-to-prey ratio has changed. They (wolves) aren’t the driving factor, but they may be having an impact.” Wolves have killed sixteen of the collared calves so far. As the calves grow larger they can better defend themselves, but they still have the long Minnesota winter ahead.