Moose populations in the Northwest Territories appear to be thriving.
A widely-read article in the New York Times last month described scientists puzzling over a stark decline in moose numbers in Minnesota. Of two distinct moose populations there, one has ‘virtually disappeared’ in the last two decades, and the other has declined by more than 60 per cent.
One possible theory is that climate change is driving the trend. Parasites, like ticks and brain worm, thrive in warmer climates and moose often die of heat exhaustion.
Yet moose populations appear to be growing in the N.W.T.
“We seem to have more moose than five years ago, which is a comfort,” says Dean Cluff, a biologist with the territorial government.
In a survey last year, Cluff says they counted over 1,200 moose just west and north of Yellowknife, up from just over 700 five years ago. Cluff says other regions have even better numbers. In 2010, the territorial government estimated there were about 20,000 to 40,000 moose across the territory.
But moose in the territory are still vulnerable to climate change, which could allow ticks, like the moose tick and the winter tick, to take a stronger hold.
Cluff is particularly concerned about a parasite called meningael worm. It’s carried by whitetail deer, “and it can be nasty for moose.” Cluff says ticks don’t tend to affect the moose population as a whole, but “if we see more instances of meningael worm and also whitetail deer coming in here that could be a cause for concern.”
According to Cluff, the department of environment and natural resources is monitoring the situation. It's planning another survey in the North Slave region in a couple of years.