The Minnesota Zoo is the new home for about half a dozen moose calves. The youngsters were abandoned by their mothers in northeastern Minnesota earlier this year, so the zoo took them in, FOX 9 reports.
Why the the calves were abandoned is just one puzzling aspect of the mysterious decline in Minnesota's moose population.
The number of moose in the state has dropped by about half over the past eight years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which estimates there are about 4,300 of the animals this year.
Four years ago, the DNR and other partners began a series of research studies to try to determine why moose are dying, and collaring moose calves is one part of the research. The collars are fitted with GPS monitors so researchers can track their movements.
Last year, researchers noticed that nine of the calves they collared were abandoned by their mothers shortly afterward, and they all eventually died.
This year, the researchers found the same thing happening when they resumed their collaring in early May.
So they changed their methods, thinking that if they kept the disturbance to the animals at a minimum, the mothers wouldn't leave their calves, the St. Cloud Times reported.
Glenn DelGiudice, who leads the calf mortality portion of the research, said the teams stopped using helicopters to reach the moose, as they did last year. Instead, they went into the woods on foot. They also stopped taking blood samples from the calves, to reduce the time spent handling them.
Still, some calves were being abandoned.
So DelGiudice shortened the process even more; two-person teams approached the moose calves on foot, slipped the collars on them quickly, and left in a matter of seconds.
The new method seems to have worked. DelGiudice told the paper that in the four weeks they used that quicker process, only one calf was abandoned.
Another new aspect is the rescuing of orphaned calves. Last year the abandoned animals were left in the field. This year, they're taken from the wild and placed in a zoo.
And that's how these six moose calves, who were abandoned by their mothers early this spring, ended up at the Minnesota Zoo.
"We're pleased that there was a place for those animals to go," wildlife researcher Lou Cornicelli told FOX 9. "It's not our ideal situation, but I think the outcome will be good for a lot of people in the state because they'll get to see moose that they wouldn't see otherwise."
The moose research will continue for several more years.