Moose Die-Off Concerns, Baffles Scientiststhe daily dish
Moose are dying off all over North America, and no one seems to be able to pinpoint the reason or reasons. There have been steep population declines in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Montana and British Columbia, Canada.
One moose population in Minnesota, for example, has plummeted in 20 years from around 4,000 to fewer than 100, according to the New York Times.
No one is sure what is causing the die-off, but scientists suspect many factors. Most of them center on climate change as a root cause.
In New Hampshire, warmer weather has led to an explosion in the winter tick population, and the parasites have had a severe impact on moose. "You can get 100,000 ticks on a moose," said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state's Fish and Game Department. That many ticks consuming a host's blood is enough to cause anemia even in an enormous moose. The ticks also cause maddening itching for the moose, and their constant scratching pulls out large chunks of their hair. The loss of their coats in this way can lead to hypothermia in the cold and rain.
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In Minnesota, a similar story is playing out, except with different parasites, like brain worms and liver flukes.
The warmer weather also puts direct stress on the moose, who are built for cold climates. As the winter temperatures rise beyond normal conditions for the moose, they must expend more energy regulated their body temperatures to stay cool, an effort that can exhaust and kill them.
The moose die-off isn't only an environmental problem, but an economic one. In states where moose are found, moose-watching tourism is big business - $115 million a year in New Hampshire alone. That's not to mention the money brought in from moose-hunting permits, which have declined along with the moose population. In Minnesota, wildlife officials have been forced to suspend moose hunting entirely.
To understand the problem better, states are investing in better moose-tracking technology. New monitoring tech allows scientists to track a tagged moose's heart rate and body temperature, and reports when and where a moose dies. Scientists are then able to retrieve the animal's carcass much more quickly, which means a more accurate and useful necropsy, which will be crucial in solving the die-off mystery.
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