The North Woods of Minnesota where moose are concentrated there is marked
by the Google pointer. Other American regions that are also seeing a sharp
decline in moose populations are Montana, Wyoming and New Hampshire.
November 22, 2013 Helena, Montana - On October 24, 2013, scientists at the University of Colorado in Boulder reported that the average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic are higher now than during any century for perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years.
Ten days later on November 14, 2013, there was a New York Times article by Jim Robbins headlined, “Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists.” Jim is a frequent contributor to the science section of the NYTimes and has written for Smithsonian, Audubon, Vanity Fair, Scientific American, Discover and Psychology Today. He has investigated the persistent die-offs of many types of trees around the world that impact animals such as grizzly bears and moose. Last year in 2012, his research was published in a book entitled The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and An Urgent Plan to Save the Planet.
Now Jim Robbins reports that something is changing so rapidly – and he assumes it is climate warming – that disappearing forests along with an upsurge of winter ticks, brain worms, liver flukes, wolves and heat stress are killing Minnesota moose at such a rate that one herd has gone from 4,000 animals to only 100 in about fifteen years.
Earlier this year scientists in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources captured 49 newborn moose calves to fit with GPS tracking collars in an effort to figure out why so many moose are dying. The scientists were stunned when over half of the calves died within a few days, many eaten by wolves and black bears but the cause of death in many other young is not known. Too many adults and young are dying to sustain the moose population.
Beyond Minnesota, moose are also declining in New Hampshire, Montana and Wyoming. Some natural resource investigators warn it might be too late to stop all the moose deaths, signaling permanent environmental change that will keep evolving through the rest of the 21st Century.
Play MP3 interview.
Jim Robbins, NYTimes Science Contributor and Author, Helena, Montana: “Minnesota has the most dramatic problem. They had two herds of moose there in the 1990s. One had 4,000 animals and another part of the state, there were 8,000 animals. The 4,000 animal herd, there are now fewer than 100 of those animals left! And in the 8,000 animal herd, there are 3,000 animals left and it’s dropping at the rate of about 25% a year. People are out there hunting still, but they are not finding any moose. Something has changed. In fact, everyone of the people I have talked to, who are experts in moose die-offs – something has changed, but no one really knows what has changed.
Everyone suspects that it’s climate change. For example, in British Columbia they had a moose wander into a Safeway store starving, covered with ticks, and it was trying to eat flowers in the flower department at Safeway. And what they think happened in British Columbia that killed the moose there was the pine bark beetle, which I’ve written a lot about. Pine bark beetles kill trees regularly around the United States, but as it’s gotten warmer, the bugs are killing a lot more trees. British Columbia has been harder hit than anywhere in the world in terms of forest die-off. So all these trees have come down and the moose have no more cover and they are wandering into places they’ve not been seen before. On top of that, they are getting covered with ticks because it’s so much warmer that these ticks are surviving through the winter and there is a lot more of them.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MOOSE AND A DEER WHEN IT COMES TO FENDING OFF TICKS?
Well, that’s an interesting part of the scenario. In central New Hampshire, a lot of moose have died off and the ones they do have in the winter time are covered with ticks, sometimes a hundred thousand to a hundred fifty thousand ticks on each animal! It leads to something that they call a ‘ghost moose’ because the moose then try to scratch the ticks off. They scratch off their hair and become hypothermic and have this kind of pale color because you can see their skin. So they call them ghost moose. Plus warmer weather has made the ticks able to survive longer and to do more damage.
IN YOUR NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE, YOU MENTION BRAIN WORMS AND RIVER FLUKES.
Both of those parasites live in a snail part of the time in the ground for part of their life cycle. And because it’s more moist because climate change causes more rain in some places – and Minnesota is one of those places – and because it’s more humid there, the number of snails are thriving and the number of brain worms and river flukes are also soaring. They think that’s possible as one of the things that is killing the moose in Minnesota. Or it might be that – plus the ticks. Wolves are a part of the picture, too.
THE WOLVES THEN, AS THE WOLVES GET WEAKER FROM ALL OF THESE OTHER PIECES, THE WOLVES CAN TAKE THEM DOWN MORE EASILY?
That’s right. There’s something called ‘heat stress’ that’s affecting moose. Again, what role does it play in all this is an unknown, but it gets above 23 degrees Fahrenheit in the wintertime, which it does quite regularly now. Moose start panting. It’s hard for them because they are covered in fat to get through harsh winters. So, it gets too hot. It’s like wearing your down coat into the house. Pretty soon, you want to take it off. Well, the moose can’t take it off and they start panting. They are weakened and the moose cannot fend off the wolves. So, what happens is because winters are getting warmer, there is less snow in the winter. So, the moose that cover themselves with fat, when they begin eating in the fall to get through these cold winters – when it gets warm in the winter above 23 degrees Fahrenheit, the moose goes into heat stress. It starts panting and has trouble browsing. It gets weak so its immune system is compromised. The moose might be more susceptible to parasites, but it’s also more susceptible to predators. Of course, that means wolves in a place like Minnesota. That’s one of the things that seems to be killing them and also reduces their immune function so diseases have more of a foothold.
Fat After Death Prevents Necropsies
And the coating of fat is also one of the problems in trying to define what’s going on because moose live out in the middle of the wild. When they die, fat breaks down very quickly. So when the scientists go there to fetch the carcass, the carcass has already been so degraded because of the fat that they can’t do a necropsy to find out what killed them.
So, they are using this high tech transmitter that they feed into the moose. When the moose’s heart stops beating, it detects the heart beat. When the moose’s heart stops beating and it falls over, they get there within 24 hours in a helicopter or a truck. Then they can get the carcass to a lab as soon as possible.
SO THE MOOSE ARE MONITORED NOW BY SCIENTISTS AND THE FEDS SPECIFICALLY TO TRY TO FIND OUT WHY THEY ARE DYING.
Exactly. Yep, in Minnesota because in a few more years all the moose in Minnesota could disappear. You know, I've written stories about the bristlecone pines dying all over the west.
I did a story on soil biodiversity a few weeks ago and a woman there said, 'We don't even know what's in the soil let alone what is dying because it's getting warmer, but there could come a day when we cannot grow wheat in Kansas anymore because the organisms that are in that soil that allow wheat to thrive there might simply die because it's getting warmer.
I think what we're seeing is a popping of the rivets in the (Earth changes) plane that we're riding in. How many are popping and how many we're looking at and able to find - I think it's alarming and I think we need to kind of take a look at these problems and stop fighting about politics in Washington that are meaningless really compared to the life support systems around us in decline and come together and find a way to restore and protect these (environmental) systems.
ISN'T IT SELF-DEFEATING THAT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO CHANGES IN THE EARTH CLIMATE SYSTEM HAS BECOME SO POLITICAL THAT MANY PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO EVEN DISCUSS IT? THEY ARE AFRAID TO BE ATTACKED WHEN THE WARMING OF THIS PLANET NOW COULD END UP CAUSING MORE STORM DAMAGE, MORE FOOD DROUGHT - MEANING THAT THE PROBLEMS COULD BECOME EVEN GREATER BECAUSE OF CLIMATE WARMING.
That's right and we don't really know what those problems will be. Let's face it - even now, we're off the map (of traditional expectations)! And scientists will say this - we don't know what's going to happen. We're beyond the collective wisdom of science up until now because what's happening now is unprecedented — not only because what's happening is unprecedented in terms of the climate warming 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of 21st Century — but because we have so altered these natural systems around us. But what happens when it's 3 degrees F. warmer?
Warm vs. Cold 21st Century Future?
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ATTACK GLOBAL WARMING WITH THERE'S EVIDENCE THAT THE EARTH IS GOING TO COOL AND MAYBE GO INTO ANOTHER ICE AGE?
All of this stuff is really so huge and complex that nobody really knows what's going on. But you've got to go with what you have the most evidence for and right now, the evidence seems to be that it's human-caused warming and it's going to get warmer and warmer.
WELL, JIM, HAVE YOU EVER TALKED WITH A SCIENTIST SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THIS QUESTION: IF WINTERS BECOME MILDER AND MILDER, WHAT DOES HAPPEN TO INSECTS that NORMALLY ARE CONTROLLED BY ICE AND SNOW? IF THERE IS NO ICE AND SNOW, WHAT'S ON THE OTHER SIDE OF WARMING CLIMATE WHEN IT COMES TO INSECTS?
Right, that's one of the big problems. At the same time, we're making the world safer for insects because we've reduced the length of winter. We're also disturbing birds. I did a piece for a book I'm writing on an island in Guam where the brown tree snake got into an airplane probably and escaped on the island. It's eaten all the song birds. There are no song birds there now.
The brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) is an arboreal rear-fanged
colubrid snake native to eastern and northern coastal Australia, Papua New Guinea,
and a large number of islands in northwestern Melanesia. This snake is infamous
for being an invasive species responsible for devastating the majority
of the native bird population in Guam. Image by U. S. Interior Dept.
And the number of spiders and other insects has exponentially increased.
It's really quite a nightmare to walk through the woods. There are spiderwebs everywhere and spiders and other bugs. So that's the kind of scenario we're seeing as we make these kinds of massive changes to the world. I've talked to people with OXFAM and they told me that in places like Peru, it's getting warmer and mosquitoes are moving up in elevation there to places where people have never seen mosquitoes and they are carrying malaria. The people are getting malaria that they've never had to deal with before.
WHICH MEANS MORE DISEASES IN PLACES THAT HAVE NEVER HAD SPECIFIC DISEASES BEFORE. TO DENY THAT THE EARTH IS CHANGING IS ACTUALLY JEOPARDIZING THE SAFETY OF HUMANS AS WE GO INTO THE FUTURE AND PEOPLE DON'T FACE UP TO THE REALITIES OF WHAT EXACTLY IS OCCURRING.
It's amazing - and it's like people are fiddling while the planet burns!
IT HAS BEEN POLITICALLY DANGEROUS FOR POLITICIANS TO EVEN WARN OR TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE AND REMEMBER ALL OF THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT USING THE WORDS ‘GLOBAL WARMING’? WELL, RIGHT NOW IT SEEMS THAT THE WEATHER – EXTREMES OF THE WEATHER – ARE BEGINNING TO TAKE SUCH GREAT TOLLS ON THE ECONOMIES OF SO MANY NATIONS THAT IT'S BEING RUBBED IN OUR FACE THAT WE ARE ON A PLANET IN WHICH THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING DRASTICALLY.
Yes, dramatically. I moved to Montana in 1978. We used to get 30-below F. temperatures two to three times a month in the wintertime. I don't remember the last time it was below zero! And that's why we have the problem here with the bugs that we have. This is a crisis! Few people seem to recognize it.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS SUCH A CLIMATE OF DENIAL ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?
Too overwhelming for a lot of people to deal with. They can't come to grips with it, so they deny it and they blame the people who are talking about it as having a hidden agenda. I just think it's almost too much to process for a lot of people.
CLIMATE CHANGE COULD BE WHAT BREAKS THE BACK OF OUR FUTURE.
It could be. Or it could bring out the best in all of us as we get together to try and adapt the world.”
November 21st Earthfiles Viewer Comment
“Just wanted to let you know we are losing our herd here in Wyoming also. You may want to visit with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and discuss this with the State Biologist. We enjoyed watching the Moose since I was a child. We even had many come to town (Kemmerer southwest corner) in the winter. They even would spend time in my yard and driveway. Now you are lucky if you see one even if you go looking just for Moose. It is my understanding they have been suffering from a blood disease that causes them to have stroke-like symptoms and eventually death. It has decimated the herds in western Wyoming to the point I believe they are nearing extinction.”
For further reports about modern Earth life die-offs, please see Earthfiles Archive. Some examples below.
• 10/22/2013 — 102213 UPDATE - Mystery of Big New Mexico Elk Die-off - Toxic Green Algae?
• 05/31/2013 — Honey Bee Deaths Higher Again in 2012-2013 Winter: One-Third of American Colonies Died Out
• 07/26/2012 — Fires, Severe Drought and 40,000 Record High Temperatures in 2012 - A New Normal in Global Warming?
• 05/24/2012 — More Than 1,000 Dolphins Dead in Northern Peru Since January - Acoustic Trauma? Biotoxins? Natural Causes?
• 03/17/2012 — Airborne Nicotine-Based Insecticide Residues from Pneumatic Drilling/Seeding Machines Kill Honey Bees
• 01/27/2012 — GMOs Have Created Stronger Weeds - Now “Agent Orange” Toxin Under Consideration As Next Stronger Weed Poison
• 06/09/2011 — Winter 2010 Honey Bee Colony Losses Averaged 30% in U. S. But beekeepers are suffering 50% to 60% losses over a year.
• 05/27/2011 — Unprecedented Die-Off of Leopard Sharks in Redwood City, Calif. Area
• 01/28/2011 — New Year 2011 - Bird, Fish, Penguin, Crab Deaths and More Corkscrew-Sliced Seals on North Norfolk, England Coast
• 01/27/2011 — Updated: Leaked EPA Document Says Bayer's Clothianidin Kills Honey Bees
• 01/06/2011 — Updated: New Year Deaths of Birds, Fish and Crabs Around the World
• 08/26/2010 — Little Brown Bats in U. S. Headed for Extinction If White-Nose Fungus Can't Be Stopped
• 07/28/2010 — Bee Expert Says Cell Phones Are Not Cause of Honey Bee Collapse
• 06/23/2010 — Snakes Are Declining Around the World, But Why?
• 05/27/2010 — New Fungus Strain Killing People and Animals in Northwest
• 05/20/2010 — Fungus in White-Nose Bat Deaths Has Spread Rapidly to Missouri and Oklahoma
• 05/05/2010 — Updated: U. S. Honey Bee Industry Struggles with 34% Colonies Loss
• 03/25/2010 — GMO Seed Prices Skyrocket and Justice Department Investigates Monsanto for Antitrust Violation
• 03/25/2010 — Bat Die-offs Spread to 11 States and Scientists Call It “Crisis”
• 06/26/2009 — Mysterious Northeast Bat Deaths Now in 9 States and Headed Toward Kentucky
• 02/26/2009 — Unprecedented Northeast Bat Die-off Spreading Rapidly