Voyageurs to Study Declining Moose

Voyageurs National Park officials plan to radio-collar 14 moose this month to investigate the potential effects of climate change and other factors on the long-term viability of moose in the park.

Voyageurs is concerned about the long-term viability of its moose population given recent declines in moose in other parts of Minnesota and adjacent Ontario. Among the factors possibly causing the declines are chronic stress related to warmer summer and winter temperatures and lethal effects of parasites transmitted by white-tailed deer such as brainworm and liver flukes.

The study is a collaborative effort between Voyageurs National Park, the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Nine female and five male moose will be captured in the park using net-guns fired from a single helicopter.  Blood and fecal samples will be collected from each moose as part of a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to assess moose population health throughout the state.

Collars used in the year-long study will be outfitted with GPS receivers that will record each animal’s position every 15 minutes. The collars are capable of storing up to 14 months of location, sensor, and activity data. The collars will be retrieved when animals are recaptured next February.

The full media release on the study can be found HERE.

Voyageurs National Park is the habitat for a moose population of 50-90 animals, according to recent surveys. Twenty-five moose — including six calves — were sighted during an aerial moose survey completed in January.  Due to the difficulty in spotting moose in winter under the park’s thick conifer canopy, less than 50 percent of moose actually present are thought to be seen during aerial surveys, officials say.

Two-hundred-eighty white-tailed deer were also observed during the survey. Deer numbers have generally increased in northern Minnesota in the last 20 years. The study will assess changes in the relative number and distribution of deer within the park over that time. It will also examine the prevalence of brainworm and liver flukes in deer within the park. These parasites can be fatal to moose but rarely affect deer.

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