|Video: To determine how warming temperatures impact moose populations, scientists capture and study the animals, which can reach 7 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Watch this video to see one of the ways this data is collected.|
Minnesota’s iconic moose might be the seven-foot-tall, 1,000 pound version of the canary in the coal mine. The large antlered animal appears on the verge of being pushed out of its southernmost historic range by climate change and other stressors.
Biologists at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say rising temperatures are at least partly to blame for a sharp drop in moose numbers in northwest Minnesota since the early 1990s. Warming appears to make moose more susceptible to deer-borne parasites and ticks, which often lead to malnutrition and death.
According to aerial winter surveys conducted by the state, northwestern Minnesota’s moose population has dropped from a high of about 4,000 in the early 1980s to fewer than 100 in 2007. Agassiz Refuge used to boast more than 430 moose; now, it has fewer than 50.
“For years, Agassiz Refuge was the place to go if you wanted to see moose year-round,” says Agassiz Refuge Manager Maggie Anderson. “Our entrance signs and all of our brochures featured the moose as the emblem of the refuge.” Then, she laments, “in 1995, that all started to change.” These days, moose are rarely seen.