States look to Minn. for help with declining moose populations

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Minnesota's ongoing study to determine why the state's moose population is rapidly declining may provide insight to other areas dealing with a similar issue.

KARE 11 reports moose populations are beginning to disappear from New Hampshire to Maine and also in North Dakota, all of which are looking to Minnesota for answers.

The problem is not confined to the United States. Erika Butler, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife veterinarian, told KARE 11 she's received phone calls from Canada and Sweden.

Last winter, the DNR launched a $1.2 million study that uses tracking collars and implant transmitters on about 100 adult moose and nearly 50 calves.

When an animal dies, researchers are notified via text message and email along with coordinates for finding the carcass. Veterinarians are then able to determine how the moose died. So far 19 moose have died, but the cause of the population decline is still unclear.

"We aren't sure yet, just at beginning phases of it but could be brain worm, could be mosquito-borne virus, could be any host of issues," Butler told KARE 11.

The moose population in northeast Minnesota, the primary area of study, was cut in half over the past three years. Without intervention, researchers say the population could disappear entirely by 2020.

Last week, New Hampshire wildlife officials announced the launch of a similar study after seeing their moose population decline from 7,500 to 4,500 over the span of five years.

“We don't want to follow Minnesota with a disappearing moose population," said Eric P. Orff, wildlife consultant to the National Wildlife Federation and a N.H. Fish and Game Department commissioner for Merrimack County.

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