The moose should be added to the endangered species list, according to a petition from two wildlife protection groups.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Honor the Earth believe the moose is increasingly threatened under climate change, like other endangered species such as the polar bear.
On Thursday, the two groups asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review the animal’s status, saying that rising temperatures have led moose populations to plummet in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
While the number of moose has declined in certain areas, such as northeastern Minnesota, state researchers say their numbers are well above the endangered or threatened level in the Midwest.
Moose are currently listed as a “species of special concern” in Michigan and Minnesota, although the title does not come with any regulations regarding the animals or their environment.
If granted protection under the Endangered Species Act, the moose would be permanently protected from being hunted. The federal government would also provide legal incentives to preserve moose habitat and allow their populations to recover.
However, state researchers say the Endangered Species Act is unlikely to protect the moose any further, as they are not a popular hunting game and not directly threatened by development. Scientists believe declining moose numbers are primarily caused by disease, parasites, and predation by bears and wolves.
“There are very few mortality factors we can control,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in an interview with The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is allowed several months before being required to respond to the petition. If it supports additional protection for the moose, the agency would then take additional time to review and conduct research and issue a recommendation.