Voyageurs Moose Study Seeks Answers

A GPS-based research study on the moose that inhabit Voyageurs National Park seeks to unravel the knotty question of what exactly is causing the decline in the animal’s population in northeastern Minnesota.

The Timberjay covers the story HERE, in an in-depth article.

The moose population in northeastern Minnesota is experiencing a more than decade-long decline to where the current population is estimated at 5,500 animals. The moose population in northwestern Minnesota has been decimated of late.

The Voyageurs research study — a joint undertaking by the National Park Service, the US. Geological Survey, and the University of Minnesota – Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute — hopes GPS tracking will help solve the riddle of the vanishing moose. Researchers hope that tracking the position of eleven radio-collared moose every 15 minutes will offer valuable data about where moose go when and under what weather conditions. Warming summer and winter temperatures in northern Minnesota are thought to adversely affect moose.

“The tremendous technological advance in these collars is that we can now determine moose response to warm-weather events such as summer heat waves at a very fine resolution in both time and space,” the NRRI explains on its web site. “Moose response to high temperatures is important: High temperatures in summer are thought to limit moose survival in some areas. High temperatures in winter and spring were also correlated with higher than expected mortality rates in NE Minnesota.”

While the Minnesota moose population’s decline has puzzled researchers, evidence points to multiple factors for the animal’s plight. Brainworm and liver flukes, along with diseases like West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are considered among the culprits. Researchers also wonder if factors like forest management practices and the genetic variations between moose populations are affecting the animal.

The study runs until 2013, at which time researchers hope to offer some answers to their moose questions.

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