The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently completed its initial review of a petition to have the northwestern subspecies of moose (Alces alces andersoni) listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The review found that the petition, submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Honor the Earth, provided “substantial scientific or commercial information” that the subspecies warranted listing under the ESA. This particular subspecies of moose is found in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. State officials, such as those from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), say they will be assisting the USFWS in determining the moose’s status.
“Moose are one of Michigan’s iconic wildlife species,” said Michigan DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason in a press release.
The species has also had a checkered history in the Wolverine State. Moose were once widespread across both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, until the destruction of their habitat, commercial hunting, and disease drove the animal from the state. A reintroduction attempt in the 1930s failed, and it was not until the 1980s when officials were able to secure 59 moose from Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario and transport them to Marquette County.
“In Michigan, the moose population has declined for a variety of reasons, including habitat loss, predation and climate change,” Mason said. “Moose thrive in cold conditions due to their thick insulating fur, long legs and wide feet. Warmer temperatures put moose at risk of overheating, which causes malnutrition and immune system concerns.”
These days, there are an estimated 500 moose in the Upper Peninsula. Moose are still considered a “species of special concern” in Michigan, but that status affords the species with no special protections. The USFWS is currently holding a 60-day comment period for the petition. Should the subspecies be listed in the ESA, the moose will be given all the protections that come with it as well. The process is not a quick one, however, and the USFWS will take a comprehensive look at the overall population of the moose, as well as possible threats, before a decision is made. It is possible that the USFWS rejects the petition and decides against listing the moose, does indeed list the moose under the ESA, or simply sets the subspecies as a candidate for listing. Alces alces andersoni is also known as Western moose, although the petition only mentions the population living in northwestern United States.
Image courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources