By Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The state is partnering with a private conservation organization to raise funds to study why Minnesota’s moose population has dramatically declined in recent years and how that trend could be reversed.

A portion of proceeds from sales or sponsorships of one of Minnesota’s most recognized wildlife artists, Les Kouba, will be directed to moose research. Kouba was a devoted conservationist who died in 1998 and donated original works and prints to conservation groups to raise money.

“We’ve been trying to draw attention to moose (for years),” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s wildlife research program manager. “Moose are a species that aren’t found in a lot of states.”

New numbers released this year show there are an estimated 4,350 moose in Minnesota, a population Cornicelli said is trending downward. Researchers found that of 54 moose tracked, the greatest number were killed by bear and wolves. Others died from parasites or winter ticks and some moose calves were abandoned by their mothers.

For the first time, the DNR is partnering with Kouba’s private organization, Les Kouba Outdoors, launching “Call of the Moose Minnesota.”

“We’re always looking for new (funding) opportunities,” Cornicelli said. “This is a good opportunity to focus some funds for moose.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has also released a new “critical habitat” license plate designed to provide funds to conservation efforts statewide. Sales of the new moose plate started Aug. 1. A Kouba painting is featured on the new plate.

The revenue from the license plates goes to the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota program which funds land acquisition and nongame research.

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