From the northern US across Canada and Alaska the Moose populations are declining, the only exception seems to be Newfoundland where populations are still in the tens of thousands. In the past ten years population decrease has been significant. There is no shortage of speculation about why but there seems to be no meaningful suggestions for remedy.
Clear cut logging may be one problem, but not directly. Clear cuts for harvesting trees only takes place where the trees are mature and moose don’t likely and shouldn’t eat conifers. Some professionals also have suggested the birch twigs may not be good for them. Clear cuts tend to be 10, 20 or more hectares (1 hectare = 2.5 acres) in size. Although, as I have pointed out before, clear cuts will regenerate but are not at all the same as a wildfire. A regenerating wildfire area with the ensuing new vegetation amongst the fallen and standing dead trees is the key. The fallen dead trees are all important for the moose for they, the dead fallen trees, protect the moose from the wolves.
Another problem is the predators mainly bears and wolves. Bears? Yes bears are bad for attacking moose calves, climbing upon their backs and putting them down. In some areas it is thought that bears are a bigger problem than the wolves.
However, moose ticks may be the biggest problem of all. Moose ticks are big and can be all over the animal’s body. It appears that the warmer climate has been a boost for the ticks and a hit for the moose. Tick infestations in some areas may to be on the rise and some of the animal infestations are in the thousands and thousands on one animal, some animals die from the parasite. Naturally when a moose is sick with a sever infestation it is more at risk from wolf and bear predation. Also we know that deer ticks carry Lyme disease what we do not appear to know is whether or not moose ticks are carrying a pathogen that is killing the moose.
Some scientists who study moose think the warmer winters are a big problem. Apparently moose will lay down flat in the snow to cool off, we have seen that. Even livestock can get overheated in the winter. Some farmers will build their animal shelters so that they are not facing the winter sun. Unfortunately the moose do not have that benefit.
There are a lot of unknowns about all of the many things that are causing the moose to rapidly disappear. It does not seem that there is a focused international effort between Canada and the United States to address the moose problem. There are bags and bags of boards, commissions and what have you of Americans and Canadians working together to solve common problems , the Great Lakes being one of them so why not one for the moose?
When the Bison (Buffalo) in Canada were just about extinct some farmers were allowed to start breeding them to build a sustainable herd. The effort was quite successful but there were two main problems. The bison had a poor weight gain ratio – food in for weight gain compared to domestic cattle. The next problem although evolution did a great job in designing them for survival as for being a domesticated animal they were designed backwards. Bison have huge front ends, rib cages, and little tiny haunches where the steaks are. However,as Hughie Long allegedly once said “out of the evil comes the good”. The result was that the bison were saved from extinction and now there are wild herds in some parts of Canada.
The Russians tried to domesticate moose and there were some pictures of the moose in harnesses. I don’t know if the pictures were for real or not. The moose should be forever one of the most wonderful residents of the forest. So what are we going to do to keep them around? Of course we need to understand what is causing the drastic decline and how to arrest it. Possibly the only way this can be done is by way of incarceration, a large fenced off area where the moose can be monitored. They would need an appropriate diet and protection from human and other predation and be free from ticks and other parasites. The medical profile could be developed and research conducted to discover what should be done to save the moose. I am absolutely sure that the science and technology is available to do the job.
There are many wildlife and wilderness non profit organizations that address wildlife and it may be a matter of developing an structure of interested entities to address the problem. If you like this idea please push it with your local, provincial, state and national wildlife organizations as well as local provincial/state, federally elected people and solicit their support to form an international committee to “Save the Moose” through scientific research on confined moose. Thank you.