September 28, 2009

Minnesota Moose In Danger Due To Climate Change

Moose in Minnesota are likely to become more rare with the broader introduction of climate change, researchers said Monday.

Last month, experts issued a special advisory that found the moose population at risk of becoming less prevalent in the US.

The August report from the Moose Advisory Committee noted that more research was needed to determine why Minnesota's moose population is on the decline, and what measures could be taken to preserve them.

According to the Associated Press, Maine holds the most moose in the lower 48 states, with about 60,000. Alaska has an estimated 150,000 moose, Idaho has about 15,000, Wyoming holds an estimated 7,700, Vermont and New Hampshire hold around 4,000 each and Minnesota has an estimated 7,600.

However, the moose population in northwestern Minnesota has dropped from at least 4,000 in the early 1980s to about 100 today.

The majority of moose in Minnesota reside in its northeastern forests due to the bountiful lakes and streams. But they face threats from warm weather, which could leave them more susceptible to deadly diseases.

"Almost without exception all of the indicators are that the population is declining," Mark Lenarz, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the AP.

The Moose Advisory panel said hunting to reduce the number of deer, which spread parasites to moose, could be one solution, although it did not advise any changes in the state's moose hunting laws, which allow hunters to receive permit to shoot one moose in their lifetime.

"Those moose are not doing well, and they're dying of health-related reasons," Panel chairman Rolf Peterson, of Michigan Technical University, told the AP. "They're exposed to a lot of pathogens, and it's not clear what they're dying from."

Peterson is a moose expert who has conducted studies on moose and wolf populations in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, where numbers of moose dropped to about 530 last winter.

Although aerial surveillance in northeast Minnesota has shown little change in the moose population, a VHF telemetry study has shown higher than expected mortality rates. Meanwhile, people have reported seeing less moose in the region.

Anderson once offered customers to pay for their flight if they did not report seeing a single moose, but has since ended that promise because of the dwindling population, said the AP.


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