Moose die-off may sound like some terrible sport, but dwindling moose populations across the entire U.S. is no sporting matter; though hunting of these animals is being limited by nature officials, it remains a mystery as to their worrisome disappearance. Something is killing these animals, but what? The New York Times affirms this Monday, Oct. 14, that although numerous theories are being put forward, the shrinking moose populations is a frightening decline that needs to be solved soon before these animals vanish forever.
A moose die-off threat throughout the U.S. — from states like Montana all the way to Minnesota — have caused nature experts to begin to look into how to save the dwindling populations of these North American animals, and what may be causing their decline in the first place. The die off is plainly apparent based on sheer moose numbers; one particular moose population in Minnesota has fallen from over 4,000 to less than 100 now over the past two decades.
Another group of moose in the same state continues to drop by an alarming 25 percent each and every year, and now stand at about 3,000 in population numbers, a far cry from the 8,000 of 20 years ago.
Hunting may indeed play a part in the moose die-off, leading nature and wildlife officials to recently call for a limiting — many times a full suspension — of all moose hunting in the states. Yet over-hunting of these animals isn’t the only issue. Something, though experts do not know yet what exactly, has changed for the worse.
“Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist official with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks who is working to count moose in this part of the state — one of numerous efforts across the continent to measure and explain the dwindling moose populations. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them.”
The mystery still looms large, though some factors are possible. Climate change is seen as a definite possibility in the moose numbers’ decline, as winters continue to grow shorter and warmer in the moose’s natural habitats, and the decrease in snowfall has led to higher tick numbers, an often killer parasite of these large animals.
“You can get well over 100,000 ticks on a single moose,” said Kristine Rines, an official with the state’s Fish and Game Department, which puts things in definite perspective.
Other health reasons may contribute to the moose die-off, including liver flukes and brain worms. Heat stress is considered another popular theory, which can lead to the moose populations literally dying off from sheer exhaustion.
With investigations in place and hunting limited for the time being, hopefully we as a nation can work to solve the mystery behind the falling moose populations and keep the moose part of North American wildlife.