Voyageurs Park moose population holding steady, bucking trend

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Collared moose
A collared moose cow rests just outside the boundary of Voyageurs National Park on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.
Steve Foss for MPR

The moose population at Voyageurs National Park near International Falls is holding relatively steady, wildlife biologists announced Tuesday.

The 2013 population is estimated to be 46 moose, similar to the most recent estimates from 2009 through 2011.

That stands in sharp contrast to the rapidly declining moose population in northeast Minnesota. In February the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said the number of moose declined 35 percent in the Arrowhead region from 2012, and 52 percent since 2010. In response to those survey results the DNR cancelled the 2013 state moose hunting season.

Biologists at Voyageurs National Park cautioned in a press release that, "other large-scale factors such as climate change and disease outbreaks continue to threaten the long-term viability of the small, isolated population in the park." They also said that continued monitoring of the animal is warranted.

This winter the DNR launched its largest study yet to try to determine what's causing the rapid decline of the large and iconic animal. Researchers collared 111 moose and outfit them with GPS trackers and transmitters, so that when they die, they can quickly locate them to harvest organs and tissues to try to find out what killed them.

Voyageurs National Park is conducting its own separate moose mortality study. Researchers have collared 16 moose in the park. They're examining how climate change affects moose behavior and how moose use habitat to avoid warm temperatures.

Later this month DNR staff will begin collaring newborn moose calves, the next phase of their $1.2 million study.

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