Minnesota moose will be fitted with special electronic devices that will alert researchers when they die, part of a pioneering moose mortality study the Department of Natural Resources is launching later this month.
Researchers hope the study will help them figure out why Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline. The devices also include a global positioning system, so researchers will be able to quickly find the moose carcass, and try to determine cause of death.
“We know the population is declining, but we don’t know exactly why,’’ Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said Friday. “Is it predation, habitat loss or climate related? We don’t know.’’
“This project is cutting edge and has never been done anywhere,” he added.
The DNR announced the study at its annual Roundtable meetings in St. Paul. About 300 citizens attended the meetings Friday and Saturday to offer input to the DNR on a variety of natural resource issues.
Under the study, 75 cow and 25 bull moose will be captured in northeastern Minnesota and fitted with GPS collars that will track the animals movements. They will inplant a second device in the digestive tracks of 27 collared moose to record the animal’s heartbeat and internal body temperature.
If the device senses the moose’s heart has stopped, it will instruct the GPS collar to notify researchers via a text message.
The problem with previous studies is that often researchers couldn’t get to the moose carcass soon enough to determine cause of death. The $1.2 million research project is funded by the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The moose population in the northeast has declined significantly since 2008, officials said.