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Moose Die-Offs Prompt Population Count in Adirondacks

Dec 01, 2014 03:13 PM EST
Moose die-offs in the animal's southern range are prompting researchers to conduct population counts over the next three years in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
(Photo : Flickr/Yellowstone National Park)

Moose die-offs in the animal's southern range are prompting researchers to conduct population counts over the next three years in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

"The aim is to figure out how many moose we have, where they are, what kind of habitat they're using and whether the population is stable, declining or growing," state wildlife biologist Ed Reed told The Associated Press (AP).

There are an estimated 500 to 1,000 moose roaming the northern New York area, Reed adds, numbers based on a combination of road kill, hunter reports and aerial surveys.

However, scientists from Cornell University are not convinced that these numbers are accurate. So starting this January, they, along with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, will be doing an in-depth study of these antlered animals. This includes, for example, aerial counts via helicopter, DNA analysis from moose scat - providing diet and genetic information - and GPS satellite data from tracking collars.

With dropping moose numbers in Minnesota and New Hampshire leaving wildlife biologists worried, researchers want to be sure they keep a close eye on the animals inhabiting the Adirondacks as well.

Experts believe troubling ticks are the problem, as a warmer, short winter has resulted in a surge in these pests. Thousands of these parasites can gang up on one moose at once, bleeding the animal and thereby causing anemia and death. This, and several other factors, has caused moose populations to be cut by more than half in less than a decade.

Consequently, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont plan to issue fewer moose hunting permits this year, while Maine has halted hunting altogether. Minnesota, for example, has seen its moose population fall from a high of 8,840 in 2006 to just 2,760 today - that's a 52 percent decline, according to the state's Department of Natural Resources.

While researchers don't know yet if New York's moose are suffering the same, they hope that this study will be able to tell them. Its population was wiped out in the 1800s from hunting, but since 1980 has gradually recovered thanks in part to moose wandering to New York from other northern states and Canada. And to keep this upward trend going, the coalition of wildlife experts and researchers want to know if they're in trouble.

"It's a conservation success story that moose are recolonizing New York after a 100-year absence," researcher Paul Schuette told the AP. "At the same time, there's concern because this is the southern edge of moose range. In Canada, moose are doing pretty well, but in the southern range, there's more concern about how they'll fare as winters become shorter and warmer."

Some good news in all this, providing some comfort, is that moose in Vermont seem to be recovering from the tick infestation as of last month.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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