Northwestern Minnesota was once teeming with moose, but it is getting increasingly difficult to spot one of the animals. The estimated population of moose in the state is hovering at just above 4,000, nearly half of the recorded estimates from 2006. According to the Star Tribune, the species is expected to die out in the next 20 years.
Local conservationists, hunters, and lawmakers are redoubling efforts to preserve Minnesota’s moose. So far, their actions have been hindered by the unknown cause of the population decline. Without knowing the root problem behind the animal’s disappearance, scientists are a loss on how to halt the deaths. Survival rates for both adults and calves are low and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently proposed a reclassification of the animal as a “species of special concern.”
The DNR has also asserted that hunting is not the cause of the decline. With strict harvest limits and regulations, hunters do not have an averse effect on the overall population. Many hunters are at the forefront of the conservation effort, hoping to preserve and restore the Minnesota moose for future generations.
With that in mind, the DNR has launched a $1.2 million research project to discover why the moose are dying. Seventy-five cow and 25 bull moose were fitted with GPS tracking devices along with a multitude of sensors to keep track of body temperature and other essential data.
“The approach we’re using is cutting edge,” said Wildlife Research Manager Lou Cornicelli in a statement. “As far as we know, nowhere else in the world has any project captured, collared and tracked so many moose at one time.”
The project will be ongoing for the next several years as scientists explore other options. Researchers hope that once a root cause have been found, efforts can begin to restore the moose population in earnest.