The fight is on in Minnesota for the moose…
The population in Minnesota has declined by more than 50 percent since 2006. More recently its numbers have stabilized giving researchers both a respite and an opportunity to find out what’s keeping this creature from thriving.
Researchers are trying to decide whether a parasite called brain worm is the number one threat to Minnesota’s largest wild animal.
Brain worm is spreading to moose in northern Minnesota through the increased population of white tail deer which carry the parasites larvae in their feces. The larvae then mature in an intermediate host like snails and slugs before becoming infectious to moose. The matured larvae then migrate to meningeal tissue which surrounds the moose’s brain and nervous system.
The new strategy is to use analysis to pinpoint areas of habitat where moose and deer overlap. They will then identify landscape and climate of those areas to create a risk map of where brain worm is most likely transmitted.
While moose population is in decline on the Minnesota mainland its population on Isle Royale is booming. The island does not have a white-tailed deer population. Wolves have been the decline for moose on Isle Royale, but recently the wolf population has dwindled.
Eventually they hope to be able to leverage natural landscape barriers to reduce brain worm transmission and help moose thrive once again.