In northeastern Minnesota, the moose population dropped 35 percent last year to fewer than 3,000 animals, prompting the cancellation of this year’s moose hunting season.
More than 100 adult moose have already been collared and fit with implant transmitters. Wildlife handlers are about halfway through tracking down 50 calves.
The implants notify researchers via text message when a moose dies along with coordinates for finding the carcass and a log of vital statistics.
MPR says a crew from Alaska is tracking mother moose by helicopter and land a couple days after she gives birth to collar the newborns.
Three calves have died, one shortly after being collared, and two after being abandoned by their mothers.
In the adult study, six moose have died. Four deaths are attributed to trauma from the process of being captured, tranquilized, and collared. Two others died after wolf attacks.
Researchers say the study is necessary to determine what is killing the population. DNR biologist Glenn DelGiudice tells MPR that if researchers allowed nature to take its course, the moose population could be gone in about 20 years.
The study is looking at parasites, disease, and competition for food from the state’s growing deer herd as possible explanations for a dramatic drop in moose numbers.
The DNR hopes to finish collaring the remaining 25 calves this weekend.