Minnesota Cancels Moose Hunt

MN moose_header“The state’s moose population has been in decline for years but never at the precipitous rate documented this winter,” said Tom Landwehr, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources commissioner in a press release announcing the cancellation of Minnesota’s moose hunting season.

The commissioner noted that the state’s limited moose hunt was not the cause for the population’s decline.

The 2013 moose hunt was cancelled after aerial survey revealed the sharp drop in the moose population, the press release says. The survey was part of an on-going study of the state’s moose decline. (Previously covered here.)

The hunt’s cancellation was covered on NBC News’ national news. Read the article here.
Read the Minnesota DNR press release here.
Read more about the department’s moose mortality research project, on its webiste, here.

Photo: courtesy of Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources

Minnesota Launches New Moose Study

Minn moose collaringA Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) study will fit 100 moose with GPS collars and implant a second device that can record temperature and heartbeat in 27 of the collared moose, a Minnesota DNR press release reports.

The goal of the study is to shed light on the mysterious decline of moose in the northern part of the state. From the press release:

“The decline in the northeast Minnesota moose population is exhibiting the same pattern of decline that we observed in the northwest,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “We’re losing about 20 percent of adult moose annually and know from previous studies that predation and hunting are not the primary causes of adult moose mortality. The decline is particularly troubling because more often than not, we can’t determine the primary cause of death.”

The study will collar 75 cows and 25 bull moose. When a collar stops moving for more than six hours (that twice the length of the average moose nap, notes an article in the Duluth News Tribune) the collar will send a text to DNR researchers so that the moose can be necropsied within 24 hours. The collared moose will be tracked for six years.

Read the detailed Minnesota DNR press release here.
Read the Duluth News Tribune article, which has some additional details and punchy quotes, here.
Watch Ericka Butler, DNR wildlife veterinarian, discuss the project on the Northlands NewsCenter website, here.
See more info on Minnesota’s moose research here, including a link to a five-page list of additional moose research projects.

Photo: A moose being collared, but not necessarily for this project. Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Moose of “Special Concern” in Minn.

mooseThe the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ list of endangered, threatened and special concern species is due to get its first update since 1996, a DNR press release reports. While 302 Minnesota species will be affected, moose are getting all the attention.

The iconic north woods animal is proposed for listing as a species of special concern. The designation reflects a 50 percent decline in the number of moose in the state since 2005, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. There are now about 4,000 moose in the state.

What is causing the rapid decline is still a bit of a mystery, but a combination of disease, parasites and a warming climate appear to be the causes, the Star-Tribune notes.

CBC News reports University of Minnesota Duluth biologist Ron Moen as saying that wildlife managers in Ontario should keep an eye out for their own moose. The southern part of western Ontario shares a border with Minnesota.

As for why the gray wolf’s delisting in the other direction, from special concern to not on the list, is not receiving much attention, that’s because this year’s wolf hunting season (and the federal delisting) packed more punch than this proposed delisting.

Read the Star-Tribune article here.
Read the Minn. DNR press release here.
Get more details about the list changes, here.

Photo: Moose, courtesy MN DNR

Game Checkpoints Provide Data on Human Diseases

Hunter check-ins have always provided a bounty of information on the health of individual animals and the population profile of the species. In Maine this year and for the last few years, they are providing more. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has teamed up with the Maine Medical Center Research Institute’s Vector Borne Disease Lab to provide blood samples from moose, white-tailed deer and even some turkeys for the lab’s surveillance mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, according to a story from WSCH TV in Portland, Maine.

By using blood samples from hunter check-ins, the lab is able to get information from remote areas that are difficult (and expensive) to monitor through traditional methods. And, according to the WSCH story, they are finding a surprising amount of these diseases out there.

Read and watch the story from WSCH TV here.

Moose Have Deer Parasite in Maine

The lungworms found in Maine deer are more closely related to the lungworms of red deer and fallow deer in Sweden and New Zealand than they are to the lungworms previously found in moose, a Bangor Daily News article reports.

The DNA analysis was done by a University of Maine undergraduate as a senior project, but it has lead to an invitation to present her results at a national conference, the article states.

Read the Bangor Daily News article, here.
Read the paper itself, here.

In other lungworm news (and it is hard to believe that there could be other lungworm news), the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center reports in its blog that a new species of lungworm has been discovered in northern Canada’s caribou, muskox and moose.

Read the blog post here.

Photo by by Alan Briere, NH Fish and Wildlife (I wanted a picture of a lungworm, but couldn’t find one. You can thank me later for not running one.)


Moose Decline

Warmer temperatures and more parasites may be the causes of a sharp decline in moose in Montana, Wyoming and Minnesota, says an article in the Billings Gazette. The decline has been noted for at least 30 years, the article says, but just recently has the matter been studied in-depth.

Montana hired Rich Deceasre as a full-time moose biologist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks just two months ago, the article says. Deceasre will conduct an eight- to ten-year study of moose. The protocol will be the same as for a recent Idaho study, so that the data can be compared.

Much more info, including an overview of the Minnesota moose decline, is in the Billings Gazette article. Read it here.

Photo by Alan Briere, courtesy NH Fish & Game

Deep Snow Means Moose Troubles in Alaska

Alaska is on pace to have twice as many moose die from being struck by cars and trains than in a typical year, an article in the Anchorage Daily News says. Deeper-than-typical snow cover is luring the moose on to plowed roads and railroad tracks, where walking is easier, so they burn fewer calories.

Read the article from the Anchorage Daily News here.

Some 600 moose have been killed by cars and trains in just the south-central region of state this winter, says another Anchorage Daily News article. That article says that the Department of Fish and Game issued a permit to the Alaska Moose Federation to feed the moose hay, and to create trails between natural feeding areas in an attempt to keep the moose out of the roads and off the railroad tracks.

The issue is public safety, the article says. Alaska has plenty of moose, but the danger to human life and property from moose collisions is severe.

With the balmy winter weather in the lower 48 this year, Alaska’s moose problem may seem exotic, but you never know where and when the snow might fall or what cervid might take to the roads in response.
** More on Moose **

Read much more about the Alaska moose-in-roads issue in the outdoors column of the Alaska Dispatch. This lengthy article is filled with details about the moose feeding action, including Norway’s very different take on the problem, and offers links to articles in the Los Angeles Times and Charleston Gazette that had a “save the moose” angle.

Photo: This moose was photographed in the parking lot of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Anchorage office in 2006. Photo by Ronald Laubenstein, courtesy of the USFWS

What Do You Say to a Naked Moose?

Winter tick infestations in moose can become so severe that the moose rub the hair right off their bodies. These have been called “ghost moose,” because of the whiteness of the mooses’ bare bodies. The tick infestation can lead to death from: anemia, distraction from grazing, or exposure to cold.

Estimating winter tick populations is an important component of moose management.

Research in New Hampshire found that counting winter ticks by any of three different methods turned up similar results. Winter tick populations were monitored by:
-dragging a white sheet over low vegetation in the spring,
-counting ticks on hunter-killed moose at check-in stations in the fall, and
-noting hair loss patterns on moose in the spring.

The three methods all revealed a similar pattern of lower winter tick numbers in 2008 and 2009, with a spike in 2010.

You can read about the New Hampshire research in an article written for a general audience in New Hampshire Fish & Game’s magazine, Wildlife Journal.

Alces Journal published a paper that reached a similar conclusion. The research there was in Maine, however. Read the paper here.

Photo: Alan Briere, courtesy NH Fish & Game

Artery worm prevalent in Wyoming moose

Forty-two percent of the moose in Wyoming are infected with carotid artery worm, known as “sore head” in sheep, and as Elaeophora schneideri scientifically. When the worm, actually a nematode, was found in the Wyoming moose that also had the state’s first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a moose, state biologists investigated further.

They tested 287 moose that were either killed by hunters or found dead, and found 42 percent of them were infected with carotid artery worm. In some parts of the state, the rate is as high as 50 percent.

Carotid artery worm was first found in mule deer and in domestic sheep in New Mexico. It does not seem to create any symptoms in the mule deer. The worm is transmitted from animal to animal by horseflies (tabanid flies). The symptoms in moose and elk include the animal’s nose and ears rotting away, and deformed antlers. The nematode can kill the moose before these symptoms occur. Carotid artery worm infections have been mistaken for CWD.

Carotid artery worm has been found in wild animals in 18 states in the South, Midwest, and West. A similar nematodes infect animals in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Wyoming has been experiencing a decline in moose numbers, but it’s not known what role the carotid artery worm infection rate is playing.

Piece together the story through this news article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide,  this species account for moose from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department (PDF), and this sample abstract from an upcoming moose conference in Wyoming.

For background on the nematode, focusing on the infection of mule deer in Nebraska, try this open access article from The Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

Non-native tree kills moose in Alaska

US Fish & Wildlife Service

Three moose in Anchorage, Alaska are dead after eating buds, branches or berries from European bird cherry trees (Prunus padus). In one case a moose ate branches that had been pruned in the fall and stored under a deck. One of the moose also ate a toxic amount of Japanese yew branches.

European bird cherry, also known as mayday tree, May Day tree, or hagberry, is considered invasive along streams in both Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. The tree is native to northern Europe and closely resembles native chokecherry trees. In the two Alaskan cities, European bird cherry is changing the mix of plant species in riverside ecosystems. Typically, moose do not browse the tree, allowing the non-native tree to dominate the native species that the moose do eat. The tree has also naturalized in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ontario, and New Brunswick

No one is sure why the moose ate the trees now, when they usually don’t, or why the trees proved so toxic, since the level of toxins in the tree can vary. The only unusual event noted was a mid-winter thaw.

For the full story in the Anchorage Daily News, click here.

For a PDF backgrounder on Prunus padus from the National Park Service, including lots of photos of flowers and fruits, click here, and get ready to download the file.