Early Reports on Minnesota Moose Study Inconclusive

The Minnesota moose population has plummeted by 50% in just two years. In an attempt to discover what is causing this dramatic decline, this winter the DNR began an aggressive research study by attaching sophisticated GPS-equipped transmitters to 111 moose. The collars transmit a message when a moose is dying, and the hope was that this would enable researchers to arrive at the scene in some cases before the moose has died or shortly thereafter. By examining and taking samples before the carcass is disturbed or degrades could provide valuable clues to the cause of death. In the Sunday, April 14 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Doug Smith reports that this effort has been successful. Eight of the collared moose have already died. Each of these deaths and the ability for scientists to study these fresh carcasses will provide important insight into what is responsible for the moose population decline. Four of the moose died from the trauma of capture and sedation and the DNR believes they were already in a weakened condition. Wolves have killed two more, three if you count the moose that died from an infected wolf bite, but wildlife biologists expect that type of mortality at this season. The final death was from brainworm which has been an oft mentioned suspect in the moose population decline. The key to the study might come during the summer months when prime age moose should not be dying. A second phase of the study will begin next month when 50 collared pregnant moose will give birth and biologists can attach radio collars to the calves. Low fecundity or high calf mortality could also explain the moose population decline. Although the study may not save the moose in Minnesota, scientists are confident they will eventually discover the reason they are disappearing. Read the full article at http://www.startribune.com/sports/outdoors/202861651.html?refer=y

Photo courtesy of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters.

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