Declining moose populations in some areas of Ontario puzzles biologists

 By: Curtis Rush News reporter, Published on Wed Oct 16 2013, Mystar

 Moose populations are thinning out in certain parts of Ontario, mirroring a disturbing pattern across other parts of North America. Why the numbers are dropping in certain areas — while they are climbing in others — isn’t known.


In one part of Minnesota, moose populations have declined to fewer than 100 from 4,000 in the 1990s. Wildlife officials in the northeast have suspended all moose hunting until research provides more answers. 

“Something’s changed,” Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told the New York Times. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them.”

Brant Allison, senior northwest regional biologist with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, says that moose “are important to the biodiversity of the province.” Allison said he is seeing declines in Canadian jurisdictions near Minnesota, including Manitoba and the northwestern and northeastern parts of Ontario. “We are definitely concerned,” he said, adding that biologists in Ontario have been in touch with their counterparts in Minnesota and Manitoba to see what the current research reveals. “We are watching. They’re still trying to figure it out,” he said. 

In the southeast part of Manitoba, some of the moose hunts have been closed for roughly past year. Although several factors may be at play, climate change has been identified as a possible explanation. In the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia, a recent study found that an epidemic of pine bark beetles led to a loss of trees and left the moose more exposed to human and animal predators. Last April in Smithers, a moose severely infested with ticks had to be euthanized after it wandered into the flower section of a Safeway grocery store.

 In Montana, moose hunting permits fell to 362 last year, from 769 in 1995, the New York Times has reported. 

Overall, however, the moose population in Ontario is regarded as healthy, with a population estimated at about 105,000, accounting for about 10 per cent of the North American population. The areas of concern are the northwestern part of Ontario such as the Kenora-Dryden region, as well as an area running along the north shore of Lake Huron, from Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa to the Quebec border. The Ministry of Nature Resources has identified issues such as habitat, climate, parasites, predation and harvesting by hunters. On the positive side, moose numbers appear to have increased in the southern portion of the province, particularly in and adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park. The ministry monitors moose populations by aerial inventory surveys and post card survey information collected each year from moose hunters. In the 1980s, Ontario saw the moose population dip to around 80,000. After strict controls were put in place on moose hunting, the numbers climbed back.

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