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What's the Maine reason moose are healthy in some states? Research may tell

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Biologists working to explain the mysterious and precipitous decline in Minnesota moose numbers may soon have some comparative data from states where moose are still doing well.

The Lewiston Sun Journal reports scientists in Maine plan to put radio collars on 70 moose this winter and another 70 next winter. In that state the moose population appears to be rather healthy – a contrast to some others, including neighboring New Hampshire, the Sun Journal says.

The paper says New Hampshire's moose seem to be struggling with a tick infestation. Biologists say more ticks are surviving warmer winters and as many as 100,000 can be found on a single moose.

That's also been a problem in Manitoba, where the Winnipeg Free Press says some moose pull or rub their pelts off in patches until their coats are too skimpy to get them through the winter. The Free Press says Manitoba straddles a geographic fault line for falling moose numbers. The population is increasing in some parts of the province, while it's fallen by as much as 90 percent elsewhere.

In Spokane, the Spokesman-Review reported last week that scientists have collared 28 moose for a long-term study. Washington's moose, the newspaper says, appear to be expanding in range and possibly in numbers.

As for Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports researchers at a conference over the weekend said the adult moose mortality rate is about double what scientists would expect. While wolves account for about 10 percent of those deaths, the newspaper quotes a University of Minnesota Duluth researcher saying another 40 percent involve moose that "are just laying down and dying."

The Maine newspaper cites brain worms and liver flukes as possible culprits in Minnesota. A November report from the National Wildlife Federation said climate change is at the root of the decline, in which the state has lost about half its moose in three years.

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