- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Moose researchers in Minnesota are set to try again to put tracking collars on newborn calves as they look to find out why the animals are in decline in the state.

The Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1D6OVgc ) reports next month’s attempt to put collars on about 50 newborn moose is the third such effort. But about one-fourth of the 75 calves collared so far have been abandoned by their mothers, a high rate that has perplexed scientists and raised ethical questions.

Gov. Mark Dayton has told the state Department of Natural Resources that this would be the last collaring attempt. Researchers say they will halt the collaring if too many calves die.

Moose are no longer found in northwestern Minnesota, and in its northeastern corner, the moose population has fallen by more than half in the last decade to just 3,450. Seventy percent of Minnesota moose calves die before their first winter, a level too high to keep up a viable moose population.

The state is trying to find the reason behind the population decline through a $1.7 million research project, as well as determine how they might save moose. Scientists have used the GPS tracking collars on adult females and their calves the previous two years.

Glenn DelGiudice, the lead calf study researcher for the Department of Natural Resources, said it’s unrealistic to have no calves abandoned. But the question in research when people handle wildlife is how many abandonments are “worth what we are learning,” he said.

Nine of 49 calves were abandoned in the first year of study, and scientists came up with a rescue plan for the next year. Eleven of 36 calves were left behind by their mothers in the second year, but seven were taken to safekeeping, including six now on display at the Minnesota Zoo.

DelGiudice said research will stop if six calves are abandoned this year, with zoos only able to take that many. The research would also halt if three calves die as a result of collaring.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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