In Minnesota moose study, wolves strike first

Joe AlbertThe moose mortality study in the northeastern part of the state officially has begun. True, researchers captured and collared 110 moose last month and have been tracking them since then. But the point of the study is to determine what’s killing moose, so you need dead animals to really learn something.

To date, five of the moose have died. Four of those died within a two-week window of being collared, so researchers chalk up their deaths to “capture-related mortality.” Essentially, those animals were weak to begin with and the stress of the capture was too much for them.

That amounts to a 3.6 percent capture mortality, which is not unusual in these sorts of studies, said Erika Butler, the DNR veterinarian who’s leading the study.

So that brings us to the fifth dead moose, which is the study’s first “real” mortality. Researchers arrived at that animal in just more than 24 hours and determined a wolf had killed it – not just scavenged its body, but actually killed it.

Things have been quiet since that animal died, but researchers stand ready as part of the project to respond to any more animals that die.

It’s going to be interesting to watch and see what’s killing these iconic animals. Given the timing, it’s interesting the first one died as a result of wolves.

Legislation recently was introduced to place a five-year moratorium on wolf hunting and trapping in the state. It’s unclear how the bill will fare, but it’s worth noting the three authors are all metro-area DFLers. Two Republicans signed onto the bill initially, but quickly had their names stricken.

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