Puzzling Moose Deaths Hint At Climate Shock To Forests

It appears that it’s not just the bees, frogs, and other reptiles that are at risk of dying off.

via New Scientist

Moose in the northern US are dying in what could be the start of a huge climate shock to the world’s boreal forests.

The die-off is most dire in Minnesota, where ecologists say moose could be gone within a decade. But it extends across the southern edge of the animal’s global range – populations are falling as far away as Sweden.

“It’s broader than I thought when I started looking into it,” says Ron Moen of the University of Minnesota Duluth, who will present a survey of North American moose populations at the Moose Health conference in Uppsala, Sweden, this week.

No single cause seems to be responsible across all regions. In Minnesota, many moose seem to be dying of parasitic worms called liver flukes; in Wyoming, some researchers are pointing to a worm that blocks the moose’s carotid arteries; in New Hampshire, massive tick infections seem to be the culprit. This diversity of reasons makes some experts think they need to dig deeper. “The fact that you’ve got different proximate causes killing off the moose suggests there’s an underlying ultimate cause,” says Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

Murray suspects that underlying cause is climate change. Moose are adapted to the bitter cold of northern climates, and those living further north in Canada and in northern Scandinavia appear healthy for the most part. But moose in southerly habitats can become heat-stressed when the weather gets warm. This prevents them from building reserves of body fat that help them survive the winter. Heat stress may also weaken their immune systems and make them more susceptible to parasites, a link that is well established for cattle in Africa. Indeed, Murray and his colleagues have found that moose populations in Minnesota decline more quickly in years with warmer summers. Parasites – and their main hosts, white-tailed deer – are also more likely to survive the milder winters of recent years, says Moen.

Researchers have yet to prove a link to climate change. But Murray notes that lynx and snowshoe hares are also declining in the southern parts of their ranges, reinforcing the idea that climate change is to blame. “We’re in the process of seeing a pretty dramatic change in the distribution of the boreal forest ecosystem,” he says.

  • Ted Heistman

    Why prove a link to climate change? Doesn’t he know? Every natural population in decline is due to climate change. Its a truism. There is no other environmental problem any more simply climate change.

    • oneironauticus

      “Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada […] suspects that underlying cause is climate change”

      I’m more inclined to trust an expert who openly admits that he does not have definitive proof than experts who just expect me to accept anything they say.

      Remember that article you wrote where you accepted the conclusions of “insect ecologist Chip Taylor” that “massive spraying of the herbicide glyphosate on Monsanto’s “Round up ready” corn and soybean crops is to blame” for the disappearance of the Monarch butterfly from certain areas?

      Well, I’ve seen way more Monarchs in my area this year than any year in the past and this part of the country is not known for being shy about herbicides. (They were real Monarchs, too, not Viceroys–though I can’t tell if they might have been Southern Monarchs, as I didn’t see any in pupae
      form). Isn’t is possible that their migration paths have changed due to other factors, rather than your article’s conclusion?

      I’m not saying that herbicides, or GMO’s or climate change are not factors in their possible migration path change–it very well may be the case that it’s all of the above!

      What I am saying is that without all the data, any definitive assertion is jumping ahead of oneself. I have more respect for someone who openly admits that they do not know precisely why something is happening, yet that isn’t stopping them from making an educated guess.

      • Ted Heistman

        I actually read all that and I am still not sure what you point is. My point is that this article reads as a pseudo event designed to do do p.r. work for the climate change narrative. To serve its purpose all it has to to do is “suggest” climate change. Anyway, Moose aren’t really declining. The overall trend is that they are reestablishing lost habitat but aren’t doing it particularly fast. The winter tick thing has been a problem in Minnesota for a long time.

        the proper response to this article would be what?

        feel vaguely uneasy?
        wait for further updates from authority figures?

        At least I made suggestions about what people can do to help monarchs. How do you plant to help save the Moose Charlotte?

        • oneironauticus

          I don’t. I’m not Canadian.

          Now, if you want to talk about the Mexican Long-Nosed Bat or the Ocelot…

          • Ted Heistman

            ocelots are declining due to climate change?

          • oneironauticus

            That does not logically follow.

            1. “At least I made suggestions about what people can do to help monarchs. How do you plant to help save the Moose Charlotte?”

            2. “I don’t. I’m not Canadian. Now, if you want to talk about the Mexican Long-Nosed Bat or the Ocelot”

            3. “ocelots are declining due to climate change?”

            You didn’t suggest that Monarchs are declining due to climate change. You didn’t agree that moose are declining due to climate change. Neither did I, for that matter.

          • Ted Heistman

            So basically you don’t have a point?

          • oneironauticus

            So, basically you’re illiterate?

            You said “ocelots are declining due to climate change?” and I said “THAT MAKES NO SENSE, TED.”

            I do not know whether or not ocelots are declining due to climate change, but it is not what I was implying. There is no logical way you could have deduced that this is what I was implying.

          • Ted Heistman

            I think your point was you wanted to insult me.

          • oneironauticus

            I have insulted you now because I am becoming irritated, but no, I can honestly say that my original intention was to point out a perceived hypocrisy and to make a larger point about the validity or invalidity of science articles written for non-scientists, at large.

            “the proper response to this article would be what?
            feel vaguely uneasy?
            wait for further updates from authority figures?”

            The proper response would be to keep aware of it, if it’s something that concerns you. I am sad for moose, actually, northerner-or-not. The world is changing quickly but all I can do is “think globally, act locally”, no? I can’t waste time feeling “vaguely uneasy” or waiting “for further updates”, but I can add the “maybe” to a general sense that something is wrong and *use* that “uneasy feeling” to spur me into action and to re-double my own efforts in my limited capacity.

            No matter how many birds I wipe oil off of (an example, I don’t live by the coast, at the moment), it will probably not save the moose.

            “This comment must be in cricket habitat.”

            As have been many of my responses to you, especially on an unrelated topic.

            However, in this case, there was really nothing to say. What do you want, a gold medal? I was simply checking to see if you were basing your assertions on personal experience or the words of “authority figures”.

          • oneironauticus

            For the record, the Mexican Long-Nosed Bat is disappearing because of the tequila and agave syrup industries.

        • oneironauticus

          “Anyway, Moose aren’t really declining. The overall trend is that they
          are reestablishing lost habitat but aren’t doing it particularly fast.”

          Where is your proof? Have you been there? Have you seen it with your own eyes?

          • Ted Heistman

            Yep. I have spent about 15 years of my life living in moose habitat from Alaska, to Minnestota and Upstate NY. I also spent a lot of time hiking and canoeing in Moose habitat in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper peninsula of Michigan. When I was born in 1971 there were no moose in NY State now there are nearly a thousand


          • Ted Heistman

            This comment must be in cricket habitat.

          • echar

            Oh that makes you an expert. There’s a shortage of those online.

  • Ted Heistman

    Btw what reptile is dying off due to climate change, Brother Elias?

    • MrGrim

      Wow, you nitpicked a single word from this story’s first para (always such a marker of quality/informed debate, I find..) and were SO excited to exploit this monumental chink in the factual armour for a cheap point score…

      … and yet, maybe you should have had a little think (or indeed done a quick search) before flapping your paws at the keyboard.


      First result that came up when I looked, amongst dozens of other stories and data.

      But hey, I’m sure you’ll justify it all away with your own personal narrative of “truth”, as part of your terribly brave one-man war against the dreaded Global Warming Narrative.

      • Ted Heistman

        Wow, Mr. Grimm you just made the wold cooler! Good Jaerb! You sound like a happy person who loves discussion.

        • MrGrim

          Heheh, you managed to mis-spell both my name and the word “world”. :-)

          I normally wouldn’t bother to point something like that out, but I have to ask: as you pounded away at the keyboard, were there little flecks of spit flying out of your mouth?

          Also, way to entirely avoid any discussion of the fact that lizard populations do indeed seem to be declining i some parts of the world. Is that what passes for discussion in your part of the world? If you can’t rationalise those facts away, just ignore them…?

    • Calypso_1
      • Ted Heistman

        “The disappearance of lizard populations was first recognized in France
        and then in Mexico, where 12 percent of the local populations had gone
        extinct since the lizards had previously been studied.”

        A bit of an odd sentence. Lizard populations declined by 12% doesn’t sound as alarmist, I guess. They had a grant to go find evidence of climate change.

        • Calypso_1

          there is a difference between local extinction and population decline.

          • Ted Heistman

            Right and one sounds way worse and its not clear which its is, so they are going with what sounds the most alarming. I can post articles that support what I am trying to point out. My feeling is you won’t reply. That’s what happened last time. Most people aren’t really interested in learning anything. They argue to defend a pre-established positions. I have never really been interested in doggedly defending the orthodox view of things.

            If the global temperature rises, The overall trend is not going to be the extinction of reptiles. Most reptiles live near the equator. They like it warm, not temperate.

            This idea that Climate change is this new thing that only has negative results is implausible. No big change never has only negative results. Every new development benefits someone or something. Its really presented as a boogeyman.

            Its already well documented that climate change is increasing species richness in more northern areas of the ocean. Thats the overall trend I see. Not “oh no everything will die leaving a big desert!”

          • Calypso_1

            You missed the rational for reptile extirpation.

          • Ted Heistman

            No I didn’t. Its supposedly so hot they stay in the shade all day and go extinct. It seems dumb, but so is arguing with you. But you are doing God’s work. So hat’s off to you.

  • InfvoCuernos

    Borris and Natasha were unavailable for comment.

  • Karl W. Braun

    Moose also seem to be holding their own in the southernmost part of their range, particularly Colorado: http://www.summitdaily.com/news/8618298-113/moose-colorado-petch-populations

    • Ted Heistman

      The picture I am getting is that Grant money for biologists is in short supply unless it is related to climate change. If you can show that something in your area of expertise is connected to climate change, you can get grants, if you find its not directly related, you might not. For example I think acid rain is really bad, and it hasn;t gone away. Its just over shadowed by climate change.

      • MrGrim

        Yeah. It’s a global conspiracy of publicly and peer-reviewed scientists.

      • echar

        I’ve lived in areas where there’s colleges my whole life. I have walked through and ate in the caffeterias in several of them. Several of my friends online are researchers. If I use words like this, it can give me the appearance of authority. When I wasn’t born yesterday, I knew that the internet is full of experts.

  • Ted Heistman

    If a population of animals increases due to climate change its also bad. Everything due to climate change is bad.