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Moose die-off is massive, and a mystery to scientists (+video)

Moose die-off: All across the US, moose are dying in large numbers – and scientists haven't figured out why yet. Climate change may be behind the moose die-off.

By Contributor / October 15, 2013


All across the US, moose are dying – and scientists yet don’t know how to save them.

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Moose populations across swaths of the US – from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River – are declining at an unprecedented rate, imperiling fragile ecosystems and putting the moose tourism industry on edge, the New York Times reported. But though scientists have a long list of culprits – disease; climate change; over-hunting – it’s not clear just what is causing moose to die in droves. And that means that scientists are at the moment unsure how to save America's moose.

Once, moose made headlines for doing a bit too well in the US. As the largest members of the deer family, Cervidae, blooming moose populations meant more accidents on rural, mountain roads, and more reports of moose attacks against humans.

But the news has changed. In New Hampshire, the moose population has dropped from some 7,000 moose to around just 4,600 animals. In Montana, numbers have fallen about 40 percent since 1995, and in Wyoming there are just 919 animals left – a quarter of the state’s target moose population. In Minnesota, the population in its northeast has been halved since about 2010, and moose have disappeared almost entirely from its northwest. Only Maine has seen an increase in its moose population, with some 75,000 animals living within its borders.

Scientists suggest that climate change is a probable factor, but pinpointing just how climate change affects the moose has been difficult. In New Hampshire, scientists have proposed that longer falls and shorter winters has allowed the winter tick population to bloom, the Washington Post reported. Up to 150,000 ticks can beset a moose at one time, bleeding it out until the moose is little more than ribs, antlers, and some loose skin.

In Minnesota, where the average midwinter temperature has risen some 11 degrees over the last 40 years, climate change is also a fingered culprit, the Minnesota Public Radio reported in 2008.

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