Minnesota’s moose mystery

A helicopter carrying a moose capture crew briefly hovers low, allowing a moose to be safely darted and eventually collared for long-term monitoring. Courtesy, Minnesota DNR

Maybe — maybe — the moose in Minnesota are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to our natural environment.

The disappearance of the moose here is getting an increasing amount of national interest, and not because they seem like particularly lovable creatures.

“It’s certainly a possibility that we may look at this question and study this problem and really not come up with an answer that we can do anything about,” the DNR’s Michelle Carstensen said on MPR’s Daily Circuit this week.

An example would be: What if we really believe the driver is climate change? And that these longer winters, better parasite survival, poorer body condition in the moose, is really the underlying driver?

What can we do with wildlife managers to combat that? And the answer is probably going to be, Not very much.

Not a particularly comforting thought.

It’s true researchers counted a lot more Minnesota moose in their 2014 aerial survey — about 4,300 versus 2,700 in 2013. But that’s likely due to ideal survey conditions, not a population spike, the DNR says, adding the long term trends haven’t changed. Northern Minnesota’s moose counts have fallen by more than half in the past eight years.

The New York Times jumped into the issue this week, too, following a biologist in Grand Portage:

  • MrE85

    This is a very serious issue, and yes, moose are particularly lovable creatures. Let’s hope this trend gets turned around, before it’s too late for the moose…and us.

    • Jim G

      I’m sadder than I thought I would be, never having had the privilege of a moose encounter. What will Frostbite Falls, Minnesota be like when it’s moose-less?