Due to concern that it is causing more harm than good to the moose population, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has decided to halt the state’s ongoing moose study.
Minnesota initiated a $1.7 million research project in 2012 in order to determine why the state’s moose population has declined over 60 percent during the last decade. However, Governor Dayton recently decided to terminate the moose study out of concern that it is actually contributing to the decline of the moose population.
A key part of the moose study involves placing GPS tracking collars on newborn moose calves. Over the past two years, 75 moose calves have been successfully collared. Unfortunately, about 25 percent of all collared moose calves were abandoned by their mothers. The exact reasons that the calves were abandoned are unknown, but the fact that the calves were handled by humans and had a collar placed on them could be a contributing factor.
Governor Dayton said of the moose study:
I respect that [state] researchers are trying to understand why our moose population is declining. However, their methods of collaring are causing too many of the moose deaths they seek to prevent. I will not authorize those collaring practices to continue in Minnesota.
The tracking collars are designed to fall off after about a year. Until that time, the collars send out real-time data to scientists about the location of the animal, the animal’s body temperature, and a death signal that allows scientists to locate the carcass to conduct an autopsy. So far, the moose study has determined that about 70 percent of moose calves die before they are a year old, the majority of calves are killed by wolves or bears.
Additionally, there are currently 99 adult moose with tracking collars and 36 have died over the past year. Of these, scientists have determined that about half were killed by wolves. However, most of these moose were suffering from some sort of parasite or other infection that weakened them and made them easy prey.
While researchers will be able to continue studying the remaining adult moose with tracking collars, this decision by Governor Dayton will severely inhibit their ability to glean new information about why there is such a high mortality rate among moose calves.
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