We love our moose on the Gunflint Trail so I thought I would share this article a friend e-mailed me.
Moose population continues to shrink
Moose here have a much higher mortality rate than elsewhere in North America, and they are continuing to die from unknown causes, said Mark Lenarz, researcher with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"We haven’t found a smoking gun," said Lenarz, despite a five-year study.
It’s too early to say whether a warming climate is to blame for the moose problems in the northeast, Lenarz said, though other scientists have said that could be the ultimate cause of the sharp moose population decline in the northwest.
In the northeast — the state’s prime moose range — the population fell 23 percent in the past year, from 8,400 animals to 6,500, according to aerial surveys. The study by Lenarz, in which 116 moose were fitted with radio collars, showed a 34 percent moose mortality rate last year. Mortality has averaged 22 percent during the study.
Normal moose mortality is 8 to 12 percent elsewhere.
"Clearly it’s been a bad year for moose in the northeast," Lenarz said. Though hunting is not a cause of the population decline, Lenarz said, the DNR is making changes to the moose hunting season. A limited season is allowed only in the northeast, where hunters kill only a couple of hundred moose each fall. But the DNR announced Friday that it will further restrict hunters by allowing them to kill only antlered moose, and not female moose, beginning this fall. Hunters will be allowed to kill 233 antlered moose.
The DNR has recovered a handful of intact dead moose and sent them to the veterinary diagnostic lab in the Twin Cities, but no specific cause of death has been determined.
"The pattern is they have been in poor nutritional condition, with low fat reserves," Lenarz said. The deaths have been occurring year-round. His study will end later this year.
"I’m not confident we’ll ever find out what’s killing these animals," he said.
Northern Minnesota is on the southern edge of the moose range, and some researchers looking at the decline of the northwest herd have said a warming climate could be pushing the moose range farther north.