Estimated moose numbers down from last year; DNR says population again low but stable
Results of the 2018 moose survey indicate the moose population in northeastern Minnesota remains stable but relatively low for the seventh year in a row, the DNR said in a news release Thursday, Feb. 15.
“While the population appears stable, low numbers of moose are still a major concern for the DNR,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.
The 2018 aerial moose survey estimated 3,030 moose in northeastern Minnesota; last year’s estimate was 3,710. The survey is statistically sound, but there is inherent uncertainty associated with such surveys because researchers don’t see and count all of the animals across the 6,000-square-mile survey area, the DNR said in the release, adding that, statistically, the DNR is 90 percent certain that the population is between 4,140 and 2,320 moose.
Each year the population estimate is compared to 2006 as the state’s highest moose population estimate of 8,840 occurred that year. Currently, northeastern Minnesota’s moose population is estimated to be 65 percent lower than the peak estimate of 2006.
Reproductive success and adult survival have the greatest impact on the annual performance and dynamics of the moose population over time, the DNR said.
Survey results also indicate that calf survival to January has been relatively stable, but consistently low. Field studies have indicated that it is even lower by spring, translating to low numbers of moose calves living through their first year. Importantly, the DNR’s detailed investigations have shown that wolf predation has consistently accounted for about two-thirds of the calf mortality compared to one-third of the adult mortality.
Annual aerial moose surveys have been conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast. Adjustments were made in 2005 to make the survey more accurate and annual results more comparable.
This year’s survey involved flying in 52 survey plots distributed across northeastern Minnesota’s moose range from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual moose survey.
More information about moose is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/moose.