Minnesota’s moose takes first step on path to ‘endangered’
Article by: JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY , Star Tribune
Updated: December 11, 2012 – 11:43 PM

One of Minnesota’s iconic animals has seen its population drop by almost half since 2005 as researchers try to identify causes.

Minnesota’s moose took the first step toward endangered species status this week when the state proposed adding it to a new list of 591 plants, animals and insects that wildlife officials say need special attention to ensure their survival.

The state’s moose population has dropped by almost half since 2005 — to about 4,000 this year — as a result of what researchers say may be disease, parasites, a warming climate or some combination of all three. Its new designation as “a species of special concern” would put an official stamp on the work already underway to save one of Minnesota’s most iconic animals.

A spot on the endangered species list would make it illegal to hunt or kill a moose, but the animal’s numbers are still too great to warrant that — even though at the current rate of decline moose could be gone from Minnesota in 20 years. And until biologists figure out why adult moose are dying twice as fast as they should be, there is little state officials can do to protect it, experts say, including putting a moratorium on hunting.

“They are already concerned about the moose and doing a lot,” said Ron Moen, a biologist and moose expert at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

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