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Happy ending unlikely for northwest moose story

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  • Pat Neuman
    Happy ending unlikely for northwest moose story Brad Dokken Published Sunday, April 01, 2007 Brad Dokken is outdoors editor for the Herald. He writes and edits
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2007
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      Happy ending unlikely for northwest moose story
      Brad Dokken
      Published Sunday, April 01, 2007

      Brad Dokken is outdoors editor for the Herald. He writes and edits the
      outdoors and usually has a column for Sunday's outdoor section.
      Two of us were traveling on state Highway 32 north of Thief River
      Falls recently when the conversation turned to moose, a species that's
      all but disappeared from the northwestern Minnesota landscape over the
      past few years.

      I was trying to remember the last time I'd seen a moose in
      northwestern Minnesota. It used to be common to see them near
      Karlstad, Minn., where the city's water tower still bears the painting
      of a moose, or on this stretch of Highway 32 north of Thief River.

      The last moose encounter I could recall occurred on a dark, rainy
      night about five years ago, when I nearly hit one near the junction of
      32 and Marshall County Road 7, the road to Agassiz National Wildlife
      Refuge.

      The encounter only lasted a few seconds, but I'll never forget the
      sense of relief when the adrenaline rush subsided. Not only for the
      obvious reasons hitting the animal wouldn't have been good for me or
      my truck but because moose numbers already were on the skids.

      I certainly didn't want to add to the problem.

      The timing of last week's moose conversation was ironic, because just
      a couple of days later, the Department of Natural Resources issued a
      news release that the moose population in northwestern Minnesota had
      dipped to a meager 84 animals.

      By comparison, an estimated 4,000 moose roamed the northwestern part
      of the state in the early 1980s.

      The decline is especially sad because it appears to be beyond our
      control. It's not like moose were overhunted, mismanaged or victims of
      extensive predation from gray wolves.

      The problem goes deeper than that.

      Northwestern Minnesota lies at the southern end of traditional moose
      range, and a documented increase in temperatures, coupled with
      parasites such as brain worm and liver flukes, apparently has stressed
      populations to the breaking point.

      And no management actions, the research concluded, can reverse the trend.

      In the past 40 years, weather data at Norris Camp in Beltrami Island
      State Forest has documented an average rise of 12 degrees in winter
      temperatures and 4 degrees in summer. The growing season also
      lengthened by about 39 days. That means moose have to expend more
      energy to stay cool.

      Last week's DNR report said moose populations in northwestern
      Minnesota now are so low it's difficult to even come up with an
      accurate estimate. Barring some drastic turnaround nobody is
      predicting, it's realistic to expect the decline will continue, to the
      point where moose in northwestern Minnesota will be spoken of in the
      past tense in just a few years.

      Sadly, that's almost the case already.

      -- -- --
      http://www.grandforksherald.com/
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