Moose on the Move

Scientists scramble to understand the country’s shifting moose populations 

Yva Momatiuk & John Eastcott/Minden Pictures

Each winter, male moose shed their antlers. Antlers regrow in spring at a rate of 1 inch per day—faster than any other tissue in the animal kingdom.

Moose are massive animals. Averaging six feet tall and weighing 1,000 pounds, they’re the largest members of the deer family. But even these mega-mammals can’t stand up to the ticks, other parasites, and unpredictable winters across the northern United States. From Maine to Montana, moose populations are shifting, and scientists are trying to figure out why.

Minnesota might be missing moose the most. In just 10 years, their population in the state has been cut by more than half—from about 8,100 in 2005 to just 3,500 in 2015. “It’s below what’s sustainable,” says Ron Moen, a moose scientist at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Many young calves and adult moose are dying because of winter ticks and parasitic brain worms carried north by their deer relatives. Harmless to deer, the pests make moose very sick. Then there are predators, like bears and wolves, that eat moose. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. But with a dwindling population, every moose counts. 

That’s why the people of Minnesota are taking action. Seasonal moose hunts have been halted since 2013. Meanwhile, scientists and government officials are keeping track of the moose. They are using methods like counting moose from helicopters and using GPS collars to see where they roam. Moen has asked locals in western Minnesota to record and report moose sightings themselves since the animal is rare in those areas.

But not all states are seeing a decline in moose populations. For example, North Dakota has seen an increase. And Alaska isn’t feeling a pinch at all, with about 200,000 moose—more than all other states combined.

Wherever moose may roam, scientists across the U.S. are working together to better understand their changing numbers. The group of researchers is like “one big, happy family,” says Lee Kantar, a moose biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Use this information to calculate the percent change in other states’ moose populations. Round all answers to the nearest percent or hundred.

Calculate the percent change for each state’s moose population to complete the chart below. Then indicate with a check mark whether the change is an increase or a decrease.

What is the percent change from 2005 to 2015 across all five states combined?

Which state is most representative of the percent change across all five states? 

If the efforts in Minnesota work and the moose population increases by 15% in 2016, how many total moose will there be in 2016?

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