Across North America, moose populations are in a steep decline and no one really knows why. In Minnesota, one of two main populations has dropped from 4,000 in the 1990s to fewer than 100 today. For this reason, moose hunting is currently prohibited in Minnesota. In Montana, fewer hunting permits are being issued to combat the issue.
It is widely suspected that the chief factor in the disappearance of the moose is climate change caused by global warming; however, a definitive cause has not been established. One result of climate change is shorter winters, which have allowed tick populations to skyrocket. Some moose become so ridden with ticks that they develop anemia. The nightmarish brain worms and liver flukes that plague large mammals prefer the wet environments provided by melting snow.
Moose are simply not built for temperate climates. With temperatures on the rise, they are forced to expend energy to stay cool, resulting in exhaustion and potentially death. Also to blame may be unregulated hunting and growing wolf populations.
Whatever the cause, scientists are taking action. One team in Minnesota has developed a $1.2 million dollar project to save the moose. When live moose are captured, they are fitted with collar and fed a transmitter in that monitors heartbeat. This study is so important because the high-fat content of moose make them decompose extremely rapidly. In order to perform a necropsy, the dead animal must be found within 24 hours. A team is on constant standby – ready to go by car, and even sometimes by helicopter.