Moose researchers report five deaths in first month of study

So far five of the 111 radio-collared moose have died in the 
first month of an intensive six-year study being conducted by wildlife 
specialists to determine what is causing the high moose mortality rate 
in Northeastern Minnesota.
“To date we have had five mortalities,” said Erika Butler, D.V.M. 
Wildlife Veterinarian of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 
(DNR), which is working with a number of partners on the project.
But of these mortalities, Butler said, “Four of these are considered 
capture-related as they occurred within two weeks of capture. This is 
a mortality rate of 3.6 percent, which is within the expected range, 
especially given the poor condition of many of these animals. “The 
fifth was actually outside our window for capture-related mortalities 
and was a wolf kill,” Butler said.
Although moose have been radio-collared in the past, these new collars 
are outfitted with GPS tracking devises and will send researchers six 
locations of each moose each day, as well as the ambient outside air 
temperature. If a moose doesn’t move for six hours researchers will 
text its location every 30 minutes for the next six hours so DNR staff 
can track the animal.
The goal is to locate moose that have died within 24 hours so they can 
be brought back and studied to determine what caused their death. If 
the moose is too big or too far away to retrieve a necropsy will be 
conducted in the field.
While moose have all but disappeared in northwestern Minnesota, 
northeastern Minnesota has been the last stand for these magnificent 
creatures in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Last January an aerial survey estimated there were 4,230 moose in 
Northeastern Minnesota. This January the population was estimated to 
be 2,760, a staggering drop of 35 percent.
Based on that count the DNR cancelled the bulls-only moose-hunting 
season for 2013.
To further illustrate the decline, in 2006 the aerial survey estimated 
8,840 moose were living in Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties.
In spring, after calving the DNR will locate radio-collared cows that 
have given birth and collar as many as 50 baby moose. These babies 
will be tracked to determine calf mortality and survival rates, Butler 
said.
Partners in the project include the Grand Portage Band of Lake 
Superior Chippewa, Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, 1854 
Treaty Authority, the University of Minnesota Duluth and the 
University of Minnesota’s veterinary and wildlife departments.
Butler said the goal of the project is to determine why moose are 
dying and to then to use that information to help make the best 
wildlife management decisions to help save the moose, it that’s 
possible.
The $1.6 million study is being funded by the state’s Environmental 
and Natural Resources Trust Fund.