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MN Moose I took in 2004


Fish to Win

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What area of the state were you hunting. Just read an article the other day of how in like 10 years or so the northwest herd could totally be wiped out. I was amazed to hear that. By the way congrats on that bad boy. Had to be quite the experinence.

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(Contact US Regarding This Word) that sucks, what were the reasons given for why they will be wiped out???

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Here's the article.

Doug Smith, Star Tribune

Last update: February 22, 2006 – 12:29 AM

Warmer weather over the past 20 years might be the smoking gun that explains why northwestern Minnesota's moose population has mysteriously plummeted.

Just 20 years ago nearly 4,000 moose roamed northwestern Minneota.

But by 2003, when the last survey was done, there were only an estimated 237.

And if the trend continues, wildlife biologists say moose could disappear from the northwest part of the state in less than 15 years, leaving them to roam only in northeastern Minnesota.

"Unless there's a reversal of this warming trend, they are on their way out," said Gary Huschle, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge near Thief River Falls.

It's uncertain whether the warming trend is due to global warming or is simply a climatic aberration, researchers say.

But regardless, it's a plausible hypothesis for the demise of the moose -- dubbed the Minnesota Moose Mystery -- said Mark Lenarz, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife researcher.

As with many whodunits, we might never know the true culprit. That's because it is impossible to test the climate change hypothesis without altering the climate the moose are living in, Lenarz said.

"All we can to is speculate that something like global warming is causing high loads [of parasites] or making moose more vulnerable," Lenarz said.

Northwest 'inhospitable'

But the final report of a five-year moose study that ended in 1999, to be published this year, says that climate change, combined with increases in deer numbers and parasite transmission rates "may have rendered northwest Minnesota inhospitable to moose."

Low reproductive rates coupled with high parasite infestation that causes high mortality apparently has spelled the death knell for northwest moose.

And the warmer weather might be the key.

Winter temperatures in that region over the past 41 years have increased by about 12 degrees, summer temps have risen 4 degrees and the growing season has lengthened by about 39 days, according to the report.

Moose population declines often occurred the year after summers with higher mean temperatures, the report said.

Also, since the moose population peaked in 1984, there have been more years when high spring and fall temperatures likely forced moose to expend energy to stay cool than occurred in the previous 20 years, when moose thrived.

It's possible those rising temperatures stressed moose and made them more vulnerable to the parasite infestations, especially liver flukes and brain worms, which have had devastating impact on the herd.

But the parasites have been there all along, Lenarz and Huschle said, and, until recently, the moose survived with them.

"There must be something going on that made these moose more vulnerable to these parasites," Lenarz said.

Said Huschle: "The moose are here [in the northwest] borderline anyway. We're on the southern end of their range, and it apparently didn't take much to add additional stress in their lives to start pushing them over the edge."

Puzzling reproduction rates

Another key finding in the moose study is that the northwest moose pregnancy rate averaged 48 percent, far less than the 84 percent average in Canadian and Alaskan moose. And the percentage of cows having twins also was considerably lower.

Low pregnancy rates correlated to low bone marrow fat and a low blood condition index. The moose showed symptoms of chronic malnutrition, even though food availability didn't appear to be a problem.

The malnutrition likely was due to effects of the parasites, researchers say they believe.

There might be another problem at work. A high percentage of the animals' livers showed deficient levels of copper. And copper deficiencies in livestock can contribute to low reproductive rates. One theory is that acid rain could be a factor.

The five-year northwest moose study ended in June 1999 when the researcher, Eric Cox, was killed along with DNR pilot Grant Coyour when their plane crashed during a survey. The findings were pulled together and are finally being published.

No other studies are planned. And wildlife officials say there appears to be nothing they can do to stem the projection that moose could disappear in the northwest by 2019.

"It looks like it's beyond control of what we can do," Huschle said.

Problems in the northeast?

Meanwhile, about 6,500 moose roam the forests of northeastern Minnesota -- a population that has remained relatively stable. A similar moose study has been under way there for the past four years. The moose there don't have as many parasites as the northwestern moose, Lenarz said. But researchers are seeing some disconcerting findings, too.

The mortality rates are considerably higher than elsewhere in North America. And some moose are dying mysteriously.

"We're seeing many of the same symptoms: Some appear to be dying of starvation at times they shouldn't be dying," Lenarz said.

"It's way too early to draw any conclusions."

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