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Idaho Fish and Game narrowing in on why moose populations are declining

Posted at 4:03 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 08:30:32-05

Idaho Fish and Game is finishing up its first year of a multiyear investigation into why moose populations are declining.

“Across the range of moose of North America, there have been signs of decline in most populations, and we have concerns here in Idaho as well,“ said Shane Roberts, IDFG Wildlife Research Coordinator. "There are concerning signs of mortality with disease and parasites. Just sick moose showing up in locations that we felt like it was time to take a closer look."

So, IDFG put tracking collars on 112 moose to see how many are dying and what's killing them.

The results were surprising.

"So far, adult female survival was pretty good, at least through the fall," said Roberts. "We still have to make it through winter, so we might lose a few more."

IDFG reported that 89 percent of the collared moose survived through fall.

But, if adult moose survival rates are high, what is causing the decline?

“There are some interesting concerns with pregnancy rates and early calf survival that we are going to look into a little bit more, and we are also going to expand our efforts this winter to look closer at how the 6-month-old calves make it through the winter," said Roberts. "We didn’t look at that within the first year, but that could be a spot in the population that is struggling as well."

Along with low calf survival, there are concerns about diseases and parasites.

“You know how big a moose's nose is? They aren’t very adept at cleaning parasites off of them like ticks, so they do struggle a lot with ticks," said Roberts. "Because they don’t have small mouths to be able to bite off ticks and so they can get really heavy loads of ticks which can eventually lead to their death."

This could affect hunters and how many moose tags are available.

“We aren’t sure that is where we are at with moose right now," said Roberts. "We are just starting to study that, but anytime there are signs of declines, it could eventually result in fewer tags.”

IDFG will make a decision on moose season and the number of tags during its Jan. 28th meeting.

They are encouraging the public to provide their input until Wed., Dec. 30. To do so, click here.