What Is Causing Moose In Northern Minnesota To Be Dying Off At An Alarming Rate?
To see a moose in the wild is a rare and awesome experience to behold. I could not even imagine how cool that would be. The closest I have come to see one in the wild is when that bull moose was hanging around the grounds at Lester River in Duluth a few years ago.
But these beautiful animals are being threatened to survive in Northern Minnesota based on a number of factors. According to Vox.com "moose are disappearing from northeast Minnesota, where it’s estimated they once numbered over 10,000. Since 2006, the population in the state has fallen by 64 percent."
Seth Moore, who is a biologist says that the decline in the moose population is related directly to climate change. Starting back in 2010 Moore and his team took to the skies via helicopters in order to try and see wild moose since they are so hard to find and cover a huge area, so this is the easiest way to spot them.
Initially, they figured it was the gray wolf causing the decline in the moose population which was to a degree because they realized that these wolves were killing 8 out of 10 moose calves in the spring. But this did not explain what was killing adult moose.
"Over the course of a decade, the researchers outfitted more than 160 adult moose with GPS collars to track their movements and activity level. If a moose stops moving for more than six hours, Moore gets a text alert with the animal’s location. We’ll put together a team and head out, sometimes miles into the woods, when we get there, typically, we’ll find a dead moose.”
Moore and his team would then take blood and tissue samples and after three years of data, they were able to come up with what was killing these adult moose. It was from a 3-inch parasitic brain worm that has come into Northeastern Minnesota from whitetail deer. In the past whitetail deer were not seen in the same areas as the moose, but due to warmer winters and less snow, the deer have migrated into the same areas. It is quite the process of how this parasite gets into the moose.
The brain worms eventually hatch and are found in deer feces where snails and slugs consume the deer droppings. These snails and slugs climb trees and shrubs which are then consumed by the adult moose. These worms then cause neurological damage where the moose become dizzy, disoriented, and die of starvation or hypothermia.
Another reason for the drop in moose population is ticks caused by the warmer winters. Some moose that they have found is covered in hundreds of ticks. These poor moose will scratch themselves raw up against trees and lose a majority of their fur causing hypothermia which eventually kills them.
Climate change is real and is affecting all aspects of our planet and wildlife. What a shame that these beautiful animals are dying off at such an alarming rate. But maybe with this type of research results, something can be done in the future to protect this species from becoming extinct.