With hopes of learning more about the lives of moose and wolves, and whether climate change is impacting them, techniciangs at Voyageurs National Park will be fitting six moose and two gray wolves with GPS collars.
The plan is to capture the moose and wolves in March "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."
Biologists are concerned with the long-term prospects for the moose population at Voyageuers, where there are about 50 moose, because of recent declines in moose populations elsewhere in Minnesota and 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," say park officials.
This year's capture program includes the recapture of four moose that had been collared a year ago. The collars on 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 2014. Two additional moose in the park will also be captured and fit with new collars.
Regarding the wolves, this collaring effort is part of a larger wolf monitoring program in the park that includes snow tracking and other survey methods. It is expected to aid park managers in assessing the current status of wolves in the park. The last detailed population estimate of wolves in the Voyageurs National Park area was completed in 2001.
Biologists capture the animals by using an immobilization drug contained in a dart that is shot into the animals from crews overhead in a helicopter.
"The immobilization, which is temporary, allows handlers to safely attach collars and collect data related to animal health. Blood and fecal samples will also be collected from each animal as part of a collaborative monitoring effort with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
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 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 1-2 days between the dates March 4-March 18, dependent on weather conditions.