Minnesota moose numbers shrinking each yearWORTHINGTON — What does Minnesota have today that it will most likely not have 40 years from now?
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — What does Minnesota have today that it will most likely not have 40 years from now?
The answer is moose.
This great symbol of northern Minnesota is losing the battle to survive in this state.
In the mid 1980’s, northwest Minnesota’s moose population was estimated to be around 4,000. Today, the estimates for that same area are fewer than 100. This dramatic decline has been the push for some intense research to see what can be done for the mighty moose of Minnesota.
Moose populations have been declining about six percent per year since 2002. The entire state moose population is estimated at ,7700.
The Department of Natural Resources started radio collaring moose in 2002 to watch their movements and monitor their natural mortality.
Mortality is the number of moose that die every year by natural causes. In some years this mortality was as little as five percent and in other years it was as high as 35 percent.
What do you think could be the cause?
Many will say that the wolves are to blame for the moose decline. I have heard this same reason for deer population fluctuations as well. Others will say that the hunters are the ones to blame. The answer is not what one would consider black and white, but the research shows something totally different is most likely the cause.
The big culprit that is most likely killing off our Minnesota moose is warm weather. In the summer of 2004 we had a very cool summer and moose mortality was five percent. In 2006 we had a very warm summer and the moose mortality was 35 percent.
This is over one third of the entire moose population that died in one year.
It is not the actual heat that kills them, but the stress that is caused makes them venerable to other parasites and disease.
Moose love it cold; really cold is even better. Temperatures in the minus 40-50-degree range cause no problems for our Minnesota moose. When temps rise to more than 50 degrees in summer, moose start looking for ways to cool off. This cooling off effort requires that they use more energy, and stress is the result.
They are often found standing in the water, which is one of nature’s air conditioners.
Northern Minnesota is the southern most tip of the traditional moose range. As Minnesota warms as a result of climate change, the moose will no longer find our state a very hospitable place to live and most likely 40 years from now they won’t.
You might ask what you could do to help the moose in Minnesota, and the unfortunate short answer is most likely nothing, You can try to reduce activities that contribute to global warming and this would a pretty good idea anyway, but the end result for the Minnesota moose is probably already pretty well written in stone. Baring some new development, the decline is likely to continue.
One might try to acquire ideal moose habitat and protect it as a way to help, but most of northern Minnesota moose habitat is already owned by the state.
I have seen a few moose in the wild over the 20 years while fishing in Canada. I don’t really know a lot about moose, but I do know that I would like to see them continue to call our state home. They are certainly majestic animals, and I place a high value on them as one of the symbols associated with living here.
There is not a much prettier picture than a moose knee high in the water, feeding on under water vegetation with the mist rising off the water on a cool fall morning. It is just very very unfortunate that when you picture the future of Minnesota, moose most likely won’t look any thing like that.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com by clicking on Northland Outdoors.