Moose declines due to systemic problems: malnutrition and parasites and then a final exit through wolves.

Moose have a harder existence in Northern Minnesota as highlighted in the Forum News Service article, "Minnesota Moose study: A Tale of wolves, brainworm, habitat and malfunctioning equipment."  It appears that the deaths attributed to the wolf are really a "final exit" in a much harder existence for the Moose. A decline in habitat and increase in parasites and temperatures contribute to weak moose --and sick moose are likely giving birth to weakened moose calves. Weak moose also have trouble reproducing and protecting newborn calves. Minnesota's DNR's collaring study had 12 moose die in the collaring procedures alone. While these procedures have a risk of death, this high mortality is an indication of sick moose undergoing a stressful experience and then dying at higher rates.

Wolves and bears were noted to "kill" most of the moose calves that died.  Labeling the cause of death as due to a wolf (or bear) from this data appears to be jumping to conclusions not necessarily supported by data. The final exit or "cause" of death may in the end be a wolf eating the moose, but this may simply be the end result of the life of a weak moose. Weakened moose will have trouble reproducing and protecting their young calves. The calves may also be born weak. I read of a cabin owner in 2014, watching a newborn moose calf lie on his driveway for almost a week after birth, which seemed like an awfully long time. While wolves are listed as a cause of death, like many other deaths that are attributed to a wolf, this may be another case of false attribution.  What we see is that the moose was predated upon at potentially higher rates, but the cause of the increased vulnerability precedes the final act of predation by a wolf. A weak moose is a result of other causes before the predation. Degraded habitat with less plants, warm temperatures, and brain worm from deer carrying diseases affect the moose's condition at the time of an encounter with a wolf. The wolf is the final exit in a long process that began long before that encounter. The wolf is ultimately part of a solution for degraded habitat and deer carrying diseases.  But if we are not careful  about how we think about the wolf and whether they "cause" the death for weakened moose, we may turn the public against the ally for improving habitat and plants—the wolf. The wolf is vital for growing plants for all wildlife. So let’s not falsely accuse the wolf for what ultimately appears to be due to a wild habitat that actually needs the wolf to restore it and to stay wild.

June 29, 2017