Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 2, 2016

Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821,  

Midwest Moose Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Climate Change Driving Alarming Declines in Moose Across
Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan Including Nearly 60 Percent Drop in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS— In response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and Honor the Earth, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that a subspecies of moose found in the Midwest may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Due to climate change, habitat degradation, disease and other factors, the moose population is in sharp decline, including a nearly 60 percent decrease in Minnesota in just 10 years.  

Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS. This photo is available for media use.

“The Endangered Species Act is the best tool we have to prevent extinction of our moose,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney who works in the Center’s Minneapolis office. “I’m saddened that moose are in such big trouble that they need the Act’s protection but relieved that help is likely on the way for these iconic symbols of the North Woods.”

Today’s finding pertains to the United States’ population of the moose subspecies (Alces alces andersoni) found only in the Midwest. Specifically, the agency found that Endangered Species Act protection may be necessary for moose in northeastern and northwestern Minnesota, northeastern North Dakota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Isle Royale and a small, recently established population in Wisconsin. 

Moose declines are particularly severe in Minnesota, with only an estimated 4,000 moose surviving there today. Scientists have warned that the animals will be nearly extirpated from Minnesota within five years if the trend is not reversed; they are already almost gone from northwestern Minnesota.

Moose are built to live in cold environments with thick insulating fur to survive freezing temperatures and long legs and wide feet to move easily through deep snow. Rising temperatures and decreasing snowfall put moose at increased risk of overheating, which leads to malnutrition and lowers their immune systems, while ticks and other pathogens thrive in a warming climate.

“Climate change, habitat destruction by mining industries, disease and other threats are driving moose to the brink,” said Adkins. “Like so many Minnesotans, I love the North Woods because of wildlife like moose, wolves and loons. The Endangered Species Act is saving the wolf and it can save the moose too.”

Protection under the Endangered Species Act for the moose would highlight the harm caused by failing to address emissions of greenhouse gases, bring additional federal dollars for research on the plight of the moose and provide additional habitat protections that are needed to help moose weather our warming world.

With today’s finding, the Fish and Wildlife Service launches a full status review of moose in the Midwest to determine whether they will be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The public has 60 days to comment on the agency’s finding.

Moose are the largest members of the deer family with massive heads, long noses, short tails, humped shoulders and large ears. Male moose can be nearly 40 percent larger than females and possess impressive sets of antlers — the largest of any living member of the deer family — that can weigh more than 75 pounds. Unlike most deer species, moose are solitary, coming together only during rut and before migrating. Moose are generalist browsers that feed on leaves, stems, buds, grasses, forbs, lichens, mosses, mushrooms and even the bark on trees, although this is usually a sign of malnutrition.

In response to the dramatic declines, Minnesota cancelled its moose hunt in 2013, and North Dakota reduced the number of hunting tags. Michigan and Wisconsin have never allowed moose hunting. Last year Gov. Mark Dayton halted all radio collaring of the animals in Minnesota, citing the number of moose killed after scientists handled them. Moose are listed as a “species of special concern” in Michigan and Minnesota, but this status does not afford any protections to the animals or their habitat.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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