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DNR: Moose population still low – and decline could continue

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The population of Minnesota's moose is still low, and it looks as if the decline will continue.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released its 2016 aerial moose survey Tuesday, which found there's an estimated 4,020 moose in the state. Although that's more than the estimated 3,450 in 2015, the DNR says it is not "statistically significant."

"Moose are not recovering in northeastern Minnesota," Glenn DelGiudice, moose project leader for the DNR, said in a news release. “It’s encouraging to see that the decline in the population since 2012 has not been as steep, but longer term projections continue to indicate that our moose population decline will continue.”

The DNR says the moose population in northeastern Minnesota could be as high as 5,180 or as low as 3,230.

Since 2006, Minnesota's moose population has declined 55 percent. That year, northeastern Minnesota had a moose population estimate of 8,840.

But in the past five years, the decline of moose has slowed. That could be because more calves are surviving past their first year, DelGuidice says.

It's not clear what is causing the moose population to decline, but researches say reasons include health issues, like parasites or infection, and predators.

Of the 47 adult moose captured and collared over the past three years, two-thirds died from health-related causes, with wolves killing one-third of the moose, the DNR says. (However, sickness made 25 percent of those killed easy prey.)

DelGuidice is "cautiously optimistic" about the survey findings, MPR News reports, noting the more they can learn about what's influencing moose survival and reproduction, the better chance they have at improving the moose population.

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