1854 TREATY AUTHORITY
GRAND PORTAGE | BOIS FORTE

Mooz is a culturally significant part of our member Bands connection to the landscape here in the 1854 ceded territory. In fact, because 400-700 pounds of meat can be harvested off of one animal, moose more or less serves as an icon for subsistence harvest and treaty reserved resources. 1854 Treaty Authority puts a substantial amount of emphasis on management of the resources upon which exercise of treaty rights are based, and therefore managing moose is a high priority. In recent years, the moose population has been declining to the point that there is concern about their long-term future in the Ceded Territory.

See the DNR's latest on Proximate Causes of Adult Moose Mortality

Since 2002, 1854 Treaty Authority has been collaborating with Grand Portage Band, Bois Forte Band, Minnesota DNR, University of Minnesota, National Park Service, Minnesota Zoo, and other groups to conduct research and monitor the moose population to obtain: 

  • Baseline information on reproduction and survival rates
  • Causes and rates of non-hunting mortality
  • Habitat use
  • Movement of individuals

At first, moose research included fixing individuals with radio collars that required researchers to go out and listen to signals to locate animals and determine if they were moving (alive) or not (probably dead). Advances in technology have led to collaring moose with GPS collars that can send locations and movement data right to our computers, saving time and money and allowing us to detect mortalities faster. Since 2002, multiple collaring events for various projects have resulted in about 100 moose wearing collars and providing the basis for study at any given time.

While project partners continue to focus on causes and rates of mortality, 1854 has turned their moose management efforts to assessing the preferences, availability, and quality of moose forage habitat (…moose food).


MOOSE UTILIZATION OF HABITAT RESTORATION SITES

There are a variety of disturbances that create moose foraging habitat. Mechanical timber management techniques such as timber harvest, shearing and prescribed fire can create and enhance moose foraging habitat. Likewise, wildfire and windstorms are natural disturbances creating habitat for moose to forage in. We are evaluating these areas for moose utilization at different time scales, like how often and how long after a disturbance the area can produce and sustain moose foraging habitat. Starting with a general knowledge of what moose require in relatively early successional forage (ie, few years after a timber cut), our biologists are questioning:

  • What species of vegetation are moose eating over different seasons?
  • Which vegetation species respond quickly to varying types of forest management?
  • For what period of time each of these species is important, per successional period of plot (i.e., birch is a yummy moose treat if between the height of .5 and 3 meters high)

By seeking to answer these questions we will learn what is needed to maintain appropriate moose foraging habitat on the changing landscape… as vegetation is likely to be impacted by the effects of climate change.

        How the Study is Conducted

160 sites are evaluated over a two-year period, with about half of the sites being visited in the spring time to assess over winter (leaf-off) browse preference, and the other half assessing summer (leaf-on) browsing preference. Both mechanical, or man-made, and naturally disturbed sites are examined. Data representing the frequency of woody shrub species regeneration is gathered and can used to find similarities or differences between the two types of disturbances. See the 2017 Technical Report on the Moose Browse Project. 


PARASITE RESEARCH

Not only will a shift in seasonal climate effect the types and abundance of vegetation on the landscape, it will also open the opportunity for different species to roam around. Historically there were few whitetail deer or moose in the Arrowhead – oral history tells us there were more caribou on the landscape. Logging and settlement made conditions more favorable for moose, and now a variety of factors are favoring whitetail deer over moose. As the abundance of deer on the landscape grows, the resultant overlap of deer and moose range can cause problems for our moose. There is a higher prevalence of the parasites carried by whitetail deer crossing right into moose range, taking a toll on their health.

The brainworm (P. tenuis) parasite that is carried by whitetail deer, although rarely affecting deer, is problematic when it infests moose. Adult worms develop in deer and then shed larvae through deer fecal pellets. Gastropods (tiny land snails) encounter the larvae on the pellets, become infected, and serve as an intermediate host. When moose accidentally ingest infected snails, the larvae develop into adult worms that often cause neurological issues. Liver flukes (Fascioloides magnaare also carried by whitetail deer and are similarly passed through gastropods to moose. While liver flukes are generally not thought to be fatal for moose, heavy infestations can significantly reduce liver function through fibrosis and result in chronic poor body condition. This is particularly important as expected trends in climate change are generally favorable for deer, and parasites carried by deer.

        How the Study is Conducted

As our wildlife management project partners work to get a better understanding of deer and moose habitat overlap, 1854 is investigating the presence of both of brainworm and liver fluke parasites in whitetail deer to better understand this factor that impacts moose mortality. Both of these parasites can be confirmed by examining deer fecal pellets. Deer pellets are collected when deer would actively be shedding brainworm larvae and liver fluke eggs – February through mid-April. The results from parasite presence or absence per location is valuable in identifying types of habitat management that may favor moose over deer and result in a decreased likelihood of parasite transmission between the species. 

P. tenuis identified during a moose necropsy.