No better, but also no worse.
That's what the Minnesota DNR says about the state's moose population following the release of the agency's 2017 aerial moose survey.
Researchers estimate there are 3,710 moose living in northeastern Minnesota, which is "statistically unchanged" from last year's estimate of 4,020 moose. It's not that easy to count every animal, so the survey is used to determine long-term trends in the number of moose.
Here'a table that shows moose population estimates since then 2005, when the DNR made its aerial surveys more accurate:
The current moose population is about 58 percent less than what is was in 2006, the year the moose population started to decline. But the DNR says since 2012, their population has been pretty stable.
That sounds like good news for the mammal, but it's a little more complicated than that.
“At this point, results do not indicate that moose are recovering in northeastern Minnesota," Glenn DelGuidice, the leader of the DNR's moose project, said in a statement. He explained that the "apparent stability" doesn't allow the DNR to forecast what the moose population will be like in the years to come – or if the population can recover to what it was a decade ago.
The DNR says recent signs of stability could be because more calves are surviving, but notes a lot is still unknown. The agency says the one thing it does know is that infections, parasites and other health issues are killing moose and making them more likely targets for a wolf.
Researchers say keeping track of what's killing moose in Minnesota may help them them find ways to slow their population decline. For more on moose in Minnesota, click here.