Moose researchers begin monitoring moose calves

As part of its study to determine what is causing the steep decline in the moose population in northeastern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has begun radio collaring 50 moose calves.

Researchers began capturing and collaring the young moose on May 8 in the Arrowhead Region. To date 28 calves have been captured and collared. The collars placed on the moose calves hold GPS trackers and transmitters that send back information (heart rate, air temperature, ect.) to researchers every 20 minutes. If a moose doesn’t move for six hours—twice its normal naptime—researchers assume it has died and go retrieve it to bring back to study in their St Paul lab.

Researchers give the cow and calf at least 36 hours to bond before they separate them and collar the baby.

Three calves have died. Scientists want to know why three-quarters of the area’s moose calves are dying within a year of birth, a number that is unsustainable to maintain the moose population in northeastern Minnesota.

Glenn DeiGiudice, PhD research scientist/moose project leader is in charge of the calf project, which he said this is the most detailed moose calf mortality study he had ever worked on.

One surprise early on is the amount of twins born this spring.

DeiGiudice said,“So far the project is going very well. We have captured 11 sets of twins, a much higher percentage then we thought we would find,”

In January 2013, the DNR radio collared 111 adult moose. About half of those were females and researchers are using their location to identify when they have calved.

According to Erika Butler, a DNR wildlife veterinarian they make a large movement to a calving site and then localize for 7-10 days.

Butler said the goal is, “catch calves between 1-4 days of age.”

Since 2007 the moose population in Northeast Minnesota has fallen from 8,860 to 2,760 in 2012.  Last year 35 percent of the population died—researchers are working hard to find out exactly why.