DNR to study declining moose population

Bull moose
In a 2011 photo, a bull moose grazes on water lilies in the canoe country north of Ely, Minn. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 that it will conduct research aimed at better understanding the sharp decline in the state's moose population. Through a combination of GPS technology and implanted devices, researchers think they can get a quicker handle on the locations and causes of moose deaths.
AP Photo/The Duluth News-Tribune, Sam Cook, file

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is embarking on what it calls the largest study of moose deaths ever conducted. The study will help determine why Minnesota's moose population has declined almost 50 percent in the last six years.

This month the DNR will attach tracking collars and implant devices in the digestive tracts of 100 moose. Both the collars and devices will alert researchers when a moose has died.

Scientists also plan to use GPS to track moose in the northeastern part of the state.

Wildlife veterinarian Erika Butler said the goal is to autopsy each moose as quickly as possible.

"We're going to be doing everything we can to remove the carcass intact," Butler said. "And if that's not possible, we'll be doing extremely thorough field necropsies."

Butler said the DNR wants to know why moose populations are declining.

"One thing that's been very clear for me working for the state of Minnesota is how much the state values moose as a species overall," she said. "You know all you really have to do is go up to Duluth or Ely or Grand Marais, and you know walk around in the bars and the shops and see all the moose paraphernalia everywhere. We know it's an iconic species for Minnesota, and we definitely have a connection with it."

Butler said the $1.2 million study should yield results in about two years. About half of the funding comes from state lottery proceeds.

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