Thunder Bay

Keep watch on Ontario moose population, researcher says

A university biologist says Ontario needs to take note of a recent decision to put moose on a list of species of special concern in the state of Minnesota.

State of Minnesota marks sharp decline in moose population

Student Amanda McGraw and biologist Ron Moen compile information from a tranquilized bull moose near Windy Lake in northeast Minnesota. (

A university biologist says Ontario needs to take note of a recent decision to put moose on a list of "species of special concern" in the state of Minnesota.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources said the moose herd has declined steadily over the past three years.

University of Minnesota Duluth biologist Ron Moen said wildlife specialists in Ontario need to hear about what’s happening in the state next door.

"You're pretty close to us, at least the southern part of Western Ontario," he said.

"So, if it hasn't happened yet, I know that it could happen in the future."

No 'biological explanation'

Moen said the next step in Minnesota will be to declare moose a protected species.

He said biologists need to do more research on why the population has declined, but there are theories about a variety of factors.

"[One study concludes] that it was somehow related to a heat," Moen said.

"[There were] warmer temperatures in January and more moose died. But, they didn't really have a biological explanation for that. It was more of a correlation."

The numbers are based on aerial surveys, which tracked roughly 4,200 moose in Minnesota in 2012.

That count came down from about 7,600 in 2008.

Moen noted Minnesota has a fairly high adult mortality rate for moose, which can partially be attributed to habitat loss. Now that fewer logging operations are taking place in the state, fewer clear-cut areas areas — which are favoured by moose — are available.

Determining the mammal’s exact cause of death has been problematic.

"Even though there was a lot of unknown causes of death — because [researchers] couldn't get into them quick enough — there were many moose [that] just laid down and died," Moen said.

"They were the equivalent of moose that were ... 25 years old to 50 years old as humans. And, that's just not expected."