Minnesota moose continue to face variety of hardships as population crash possible for 2023
Calf recruitment for Minnesota’s moose is the process of young moose surviving to become adults.
This spring, in the far reaches of northeastern Minnesota, calf recruitment of moose does not present an uplifting narrative.
“It’s abysmal. I think this is the worst calf recruitment year we’ve seen in 12 years of study,” said Dr. Seth Moore, the director of biology and environment for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “Essentially, of our collared moose. 100 percent of the calves are gone.”
As bleak as that is, during a typical year, an estimated 80 percent of moose calves are taken by predators such as wolves or black bears. In spring and early summer 2022, wolves are taking a higher percentage of moose calves when compared to black bears, Moore said, but that’s not the only issue impacting young moose.
“We also had a lot of stillbirths this year as well, much higher than normal,” Moore said. “And we think that’s because this was such a severe winter, in terms of snow depth, and also a very severe winter for moose, because of winter tick loading, that the animals were just in really poor condition. And when they are in poor condition, their calves are in poor condition as well.”
Moore shared these sentiments during a live outdoor news special that aired July 7 on WTIP. Joining Moore was EJ Issac, a fish and wildlife biologist for the Grand Portage Band.
Wildlife officials from Grand Portage have been studying moose for more than a decade in an effort to understand Minnesota’s long-term moose population decline.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said Minnesota’s moose population is the largest it has been in more than a decade, after 11 consecutive years of remaining relatively stable.
The DNR’s 2022 survey estimated the moose population at about 4,700 animals, with a potential range between 3,440 and 6,780. The survey showed no statistically significant change from the last one conducted in 2020 but is the highest estimate since 2011.
Moore said during the recent WTIP program that those numbers are likely to plummet in the 2023 count.
“From what we have been seeing with our collared animals, we lost somewhere around 25 to 27 percent of our adult collared moose between February and now. So massive population drop during a time in year when conditions are actually getting much milder, there should be much more nutrition on the land base,” Moore said. “But because they came in to spring in such poor condition from the severe winter and the high tick loads, we’re seeing extremely high adult mortality much higher than ever before really, and extremely high calf mortality. So I would predict next year’s survey that’s conducted by the Minnesota DNR will show a significant drop in the moose population.”
Listen to the audio below to learn more.