The death of Moose No. 90
Researchers find themselves doing real life CSI when a collared moose sends a mortality signal and data from a variety of sources is analyzed.
On July 11, 2013, Moose No. 90 moved about 400 yards from a resting place in the woods (green square) to a position along the lake shore.
A team investigated on July 15 because locations sent by the moose's GPS collar every four hours showed little movement. The team found the moose alive in the lake but the animal was not responsive and was unwilling to move out of the water.
The next day, a mortality team found Moose No. 90 floating in the lake dead (red square). The entire carcass was hauled out and taken the to the veterinary diagnostic lab.
Necropsy results determined that the moose died from trauma caused by a compound fracture to a front leg and predator bite and claw wounds on its rump. The pathologist speculated that the leg fracture may have occurred three to four days prior to death given the state of infection.
A look at information transmitted from a special transmitter in the moose's stomach supports the pathologist's speculation and may explain what led the moose to water.
A quick spike from the moose's normal temperature of 101 to nearly 103 occurred first, possibly because it was fleeing from wolves. The animal's temperature remained in flux after that, spiking to 106.5 degrees. Researchers believe that high temperature caused by the infection likely caused the moose to move into the lake to cool down.
Data collected during the first nine months of the DNR's moose mortality project has given wildlife researchers an unprecedented view into the lives and deaths of Minnesota moose.
In many instances, researchers know what killed a particular moose. From locations transmitted by high-tech GPS collars, researchers have watched an animal's movements in the days and hours leading up to its death. For a select group of moose, researchers were able to observe fluctuations in the animals' temperatures as injury, trauma or sickness occurred and life slipped away.
As yet, there isn't enough data to answer with certainty why Minnesota's moose population has dropped 52 percent since 2010. And it's far too early in the study for researchers to even consider possible solutions that might slow the precipitous decline.
Science is a slow process. Data must be collected during the course of multiple years so variations in weather, habitat, physiology and behavior can be factored in. Collected data must be analyzed and compared. Only then can likely causes can be determined and potential solutions offered.
DNR researchers do know that 88 of the 100 adult moose collared in winter 2013 still roam northeastern Minnesota. Only 10 of the 34 moose calves collared in May survive. Researchers have retrieved most of the dead animals from the field and subsequently determined the causes of their deaths.
More adult and newborn moose will be collared in 2014 during the second year of the project. Additional funding for a third year is being sought so this first-of-its-kind study can continue. Without the information and insight the study can provide, there is little hope that these massive and majestic animals will continue to be a source of awe in Minnesota's north woods.
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High Tech Research Targets Moose Mortality Mystery (WCCO, Minneapolis-St. Paul, CBS MN)
What's Killing Minnesota's Moose (St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MediaNews Group)
Eyewitness News Special Report: A Desperate Measure (WDIO, Duluth, ABC)
Eyewitness News Special Report: Communities Concerned About Moose (WDIO, Duluth, ABC)
Moose hunt canceled; DNR works to answer population decline (KARE, Minneapolis-St. Paul, NBC)