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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian


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New and worrisome numbers are in this month for the Minnesota moose population. Over the past five years, moose populations have been suffering, down to approximately 4,020 from 8,840 in 2006. While there was a small increase from 2015 to 2016, officials have warned that the count is variable enough that the change is not statistically significant, suggesting a bleak outlook projected for moose.

What’s to blame for the drop in moose numbers? In 2013, moose were labeled as endangered and the Minnesota DNR began tracking moose and their mortality rates. While no root cause has been determined, the majority of moose mortalities were the result of health-related problems, as opposed to dying from predation or hunting.

Theories tend to blame climate change, especially the recent resulting temperature rise. Hotter summers could cause moose to eat less in search of shelter, making them less healthy and more prone to disease. Warmer winters also allow ticks and other parasites to proliferate, which result in anemic moose. Other factors include declining food availability, habitat fragmentation, and diminishing water availability.

While moose futures continue to look grim, some previously at-risk Minnesota bird populations that can be found in the Arboretum are on the rise. Trumpeter swans, for example, completely disappeared from Minnesota after the 1880s, with a total U.S. population below 100 swans. Restoration efforts have revitalized trumpeter swan numbers, and there are over 2,400 trumpeter swans today in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Minnesota pheasant populations have bounced back. Pheasant numbers, determined by a roadside count, were at 29 birds per 100 miles last year. Now, after a 33% increase, the ratio has increased to 41 birds per 100 miles. Pheasant populations have been hit hard by nesting habitat degradation.

Earlier this winter, the Minnesota DNR created a Pheasant Summit Action Plan to invigorate pheasant conservation. These conservation efforts are invaluable for these birds and countless others you can find in the Arboretum.

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