Saving Moose from Carbon Pollution
The Latest Science
Scientists are continuing to study moose populations to gain greater insights into how to best curb their decline. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, researchers who study the moose populations in the state are projecting higher mortality rates this spring for moose calves than expected. Meanwhile in Minnesota, a DNR survey of moose numbers found that the population is still in decline. The upside for Minnesota’s moose is that the decline appears to be slowing, but scientists believe that bigger steps need to be taken to get moose numbers back to healthy levels long-term.
What’s Behind The Decline?
Moose numbers in the Northeat U.S. are declining at alarming rates. In New Hampshire, the number of wild moose has dropped from 7,500 to 4,000 in the past ten years. Scientists believe that increasing temperatures and heat stress are directly harming the moose and contributing to a widespread increase in detrimental parasites. In places like New Hampshire and Minnesota, researchers have found that warmer winters are enabling parasites like ticks to thrive throughout more of the year. These compounding factors are making moose populations dwindle faster than they can recover.
One of the main culprits is the Moose Tick, also called the Elk Tick. While this parasite doesn’t carry Lyme disease, it feeds on large mammals like moose, deer, and elk. Scientists estimate that 40,000 ticks on a single moose are enough to kill it in just a few months. But researchers documented moose in New Hampshire with 150,000 ticks — five times the normal amount — on a single animal. During the winter of 2014, an estimated 64 percent of collared moose calves in New Hampshire studied by researchers died from blood loss from tick infestations.
But it isn’t just New Hampshire. Moose are declining throughout the country. In Minnesota, Glenn DelGiudice, the moose project leader for the state Department of Natural Resources said that “moose are not recovering in Northern Minnesota.” Researchers are conducting similar studies in states like Vermont and Maine in an attempt to curtail the rapid decline of moose populations.
Climate Change’s Role:
Climate scientists found that 2014 was the warmest year on record at the time. That record was broken by 2015 temperatures and 2016 is projected to be hotter still. With these drastic temperature changes, parasites and heat stress are only going to increase for moose populations.
Policymakers in the U.S. need to take steps now to mitigate the decline of moose. Implementing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan at the state level and investing in renewable sources of energy will reduce the amount of carbon pollution and reduce the rise in global temperatures. Only by taking steps now will Americans be able to save the moose and North America’s other extraordinary animals.
The National Wildlife Federation has been working to raise the plight of moose on the presidential campaign trail, offering candidates in New Hampshire a toy moose to send the message that Americans want leaders who will take action on climate change.Take action