Moose Die-Off: Is Climate Change To Blame?

    October 15, 2013
    Amanda Crum
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Moose are animals made for cold weather, so when the temperatures rise in their environment, it can lead to exhaustion-related death. Now, scientists are trying to discover if that’s been the cause of a recent upsurge in deaths, as the population has shrunk dramatically–from 8,000 to 3,000 in Minnesota alone.

As wildlife officials investigate the cause, they’ve suspended moose hunting in Minnesota, and other states–like Montana–have seen a dramatic drop in hunting permits because the animals are getting too hard to find.

“Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them.”

There are several factors that might be contributing to the decline in population, and weather is just one of them. Ticks, for instance, have reportedly been a big concern and, not surprisingly, the longer periods of warm weather have also affected the pests. They tend to be out in full force until it gets very cold, and a moose is prime feeding ground. A large tick infestation means a moose may become anemic, and they also scratch until their hair falls out, which can lead to hypothermia when the weather finally does cool off.

Minnesota is one state trying to track the source of the die-off; by fitting several of the animals with tracking collars and tiny monitors that keep track of the heart rate, they can see the exact moment a moose dies and get to it quickly no matter where it is in the wild. Time is of the essence where a moose necropsy is concerned, because they decompose quickly.

“If the heart stops beating, it sends a text message to our phone that says, ‘I’m dead at x and y coordinates,’ ” said Dr. Butler, who is leading the project.

It will take a while to get to the root of the deaths, but scientists hope that the next few months will bring answers that could help save the population.

  • June Palmer

    If parasites are a big part of the problem, perhaps spraying DE (Diatomaceous Earth)on the moose and where they feed from a chopper might help kill off ticks and fleas.

  • Josey

    Treatment of individual animals not practical on large-scale, free-ranging wildlife. Doesn’t cure the big problem.

  • Patrick Bauman

    I don’t see anywhere in the article that the scientists involved in this study are blaming climate change. Why is that even in the headline? Seems to be just another attempt to promote fearmongering where there doesn’t need to be any.

    I was just on another site this morning that featured this story. There were a number of commenters from various other parts of the country (Alaska, Maine, New York)and they all stated that they’ve seen a dramatic increase in the moose populations in their areas in the past few years. If so, climate change hardly seems like the culprit.

    As hunters, they suggested that part of the cause of decline in the mid-west might be an increase in the wolf populations. Having just seen a newscast about that last week, I also wonder if this is one of the causes.

    How about we stop blaming every single thing on climate change and stop the constant rhetoric which very few people are falling for anymore.

  • Paul Laninga

    The world has been cooling for over a decade. How do these people get away with the false premise. Stop the bullsh*t! Enough is enough!

  • Gary

    Why is it that climate change is blamed for everything? Since its been documented that earths temperature hasn’t risen in the past 15 years, why would such a ridiculous theory even be printed? Its obvious that todays main stream media would rather advance a false agenda rather than finding out the facts.

  • Don

    The polar ice cap is expanding how does all of this c_ _ P get blamed on Global warming in the first place. And make no mistake, the IPCC report is based on GARBAGE data.