Date of this Version
Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2018
Wolf (Canis lupus) and moose (Alces americanus) populations in northeastern Minnesota, USA, have fluctuated for decades and, based on helicopter counts, moose numbers declined to a new low from 2006 to about 2012. Other steep declines were found in 1991 and 1998 during periods when moose counts were done with fixed-wing aircraft; these declines also appeared to be real. Winter wolf numbers, monitored in part of the moose range, had been increasing since about 2002 to the highest population in decades in 2009. However, from 2009 to 2016, wolves decreased precipitously, and the moose- population decline leveled off from 2012 to 2017. Calf:population ratios from 1985 to 1997 and from 2005 to 2016 were inversely related to wolf numbers in the wolf-study area the previous winter both as wolves increased and decreased in abundance. Similarly, log annual growth rates of moose numbers were negatively correlated with counts of wolves in the prior year. Other factors such as nutrition and parasites, and possibly climate change, likely have been involved in the recent moose decline. However, wolves, as in other areas, appear to have contributed to the decline in the northeastern Minnesota moose population at least in part through predation on calves, supporting earlier reports.