- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - New data show that Minnesota’s moose population remains disappointingly low despite a slower population decline, and the Department of Natural Resources warned Tuesday that it expects the long-term numbers to continue falling for the iconic animals of the North Country.

The DNR’s annual aerial survey this winter put northeastern Minnesota’s moose population at an estimated 4,020. While that’s higher than the 2015 estimate of 3,450, the agency stressed that the difference isn’t statistically significant. The real population could be as low as 3,230 or as high as 5,180.

“Moose are not recovering in northeastern Minnesota,” DNR moose project leader Glenn DelGiudice said in a statement. “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.”

Northeastern Minnesota’s moose population is down 55 percent from an estimated peak of 8,840 in 2006. DelGiudice and his fellow state and tribal researchers are finally beginning to unravel the reasons, and have found that they include a complex interplay of health issues and predators.

They reported last month that three years of preliminary data from 173 moose fitted with GPS radio collars showed that two-thirds of the 47 that later died fell victim to various health problems. While another third were killed by wolves, about a fourth of them had health issues that made them easy prey. Parasites such as brainworms, winter ticks and liver flukes, and infections, appeared to be among the leading causes of health problems that led to death. Nutritional deficiencies and heat stress also affect survival. But DelGiudice said at the time that it would take six years of data to draw firm conclusions about long-term trends and causes.

The survival rate for adult moose seems to have the greatest long-term impact on the population trend, past studies have found. The DNR’s data from collared moose have shown adult survival rates of 81 percent in 2013, 88 percent in 2014, and 85 percent in 2015, so the trend is slightly up. DelGiudice said better calf survival rates also may have slowed the decline. The aerial survey estimated that 17 percent of Minnesota’s moose are calves, compared with 13 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2014.

Minnesota hasn’t allowed moose hunting since 2012.

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This version of the story corrects the typo in DelGiudice spelling.

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Online

Minnesota DNR moose page: http://www.mndnr.gov/moose

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