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Voyageurs National Park to Collar Moose This Winter

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Date: January 10, 2011
Contact: Steve Windels, 218-283-6600

Voyageurs National Park plans to capture up to 19 adult moose to attach state-of-art telemetry collars in January 2011 as part of a continuing project to investigate the potential effects of climate change and other factors on the long-term viability of moose in the park.  The project is a collaborative effort among scientists from Voyageurs National Park, the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Collars will be outfitted with GPS receivers that will record each animal’s position every 20 minutes. A subset of daily locations will be transmitted to project investigators via the ARGOS satellite system, providing a remote system to monitor animal movements in near real-time. Standard VHF transmitters are part of each collar and can signal when a moose has died to allow quick retrieval of the collar and a determination of death, if possible. Each collar is also fitted with external temperature and activity sensors. The collars are capable of storing more than 24 months of location, sensor, and activity data. Collars are programmed to automatically drop-off in the winter months of 2013. 

Voyageurs National Park is concerned about the long-term viability of its moose population given recent declines in moose populations in other parts of Minnesota and adjacent Ontario.  Among factors possibly causing these declines are chronic stress related to warmer summer and winter temperatures and lethal effects of parasites transmitted by white-tailed deer such as brainworm and liver flukes. Voyageurs National Park protects a moose population of between 50-90 animals based on recent surveys.

The 2011 capture effort includes the recapture of 11 moose collared in Voyageurs National Park in February 2010. More than 50,000 GPS locations combined have been received to date from these collars documenting movements, activity, and ambient temperature throughout the year. The collars from the recaptured moose will be removed to download remaining data on the collars. The moose will then be fitted with new collars that will last until the end of the project in 2013.

“Moose seek cooler temperatures on relatively hot days”, said Dr. Steve Windels, Terrestrial Ecologist for Voyageurs National Park. “We will be able to identify forest and wetland types that moose use as cover when thermally stressed.”

Some of the remaining collars may be placed on moose captured on state lands immediately adjacent to Voyageurs National Park in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Moose readily move between the park and adjacent lands where land management practices differ from those inside the park, allowing researchers to study how moose behave in relation to changes in forest structure and composition caused by management.

Moose will be captured using netguns fired from a single helicopter. Netted animals are carefully restrained to allow handlers to safely attach collars and collect data related to animal health. Blood and fecal samples will also be collected from each moose as part of a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to assess moose population health throughout the State. The capture operation will be conducted by a private company, Quicksilver Air Inc., that specializes in the capture of wild animals from helicopters.  Wildlife veterinarians from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will also be on-site.

Some snowmobile trails may be temporarily closed inside Voyageurs National Park to allow for safe capture operations while the helicopter is in the immediate vicinity of a snowmobile trail. Closed trails will be adequately marked or staffed by NPS personnel to alert park visitors. Closed trails may include the Chain of Lakes trail and the overland portages of the Ash River to Kettle Falls trail. The capture operation is expected to be completed in 2-3 days between the dates Jan 21-31, dependent on weather conditions. Updates regarding trail closures will be reported in the weekly winter trail conditions reports, which are available on our website at www.nps.gov/voya.

More information on other moose research occurring in Minnesota can be found at www.nrri.umn.edu/moose.

Dr. Steve Windels, Terrestrial Ecologist, Voyageurs National Park, 218-283-6692, e-mail us

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