Minnesota Scrambles to Solve Mysterious Decline in Moose Population

Minnesota is on pace to be moose free in 20 years and no one knows why, according to a recent editorial by the Star Tribune.

The state's moose population has fallen dramatically in the past few years with the estimated population of 4,200 animals standing at almost half of what it was in 2006. These low numbers are due in part to adult bulls dropping dead for no apparent reason and poor calf survival rates.

Because of this, Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last month proposed classifying the moose as a "species of special concern." While this classification wouldn't immediately end moose hunting in the state, it could if the bull-to-cow ratio drops below 67 bulls per 100 cows for three years in a row. Despite the DNR stating that hunting isn't responsible for the falling population, some want the hunt banned altogether. The state currently offers a limited-draw, once-in-a-lifetime moose hunt for residents.

In order to find out what is responsible for declining moose numbers (suspicion is that it might be global warming, disease, parasites, or a combination of those factors) the DNR will begin to equip 100 moose with GPS collars to track their movements, 27 of which will also monitor body temperature and heartbeat. This will aid DNR researchers in recovering dead moose faster so they quickly identify the cause of death. This $1.2 million project will be funded by the state's Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.