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Moose & Climate Change

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If predictions for the future of our climate are accurate, and if no significant measures are taken to counter it, one of the hardest hit animals in North America will be the Moose.  While well-adapted to winter conditions, Moose start experiencing heat stress when summer temperatures get above 57°F. Why this intolerance to heat?  A highly insulative coat, thick skin and low surface to volume ratio.  When faced with very warm summers, Moose start spending more time in the shade, in cool water and in locations with cooling winds. They also frequently move to higher elevations.  When it gets really hot, they stop foraging for food during the one season they have to bulk up.

Not only will their chances of survival during the coming winter be compromised as a result of this, but successful reproduction is far less likely. In addition, heat stress can cause lowered immune response which leaves the affected animals more vulnerable to disease and parasites such as winter ticks and brainworm. Adding to these challenges, the make-up of woody plant species in boreal forests will also be affected by warmer temperatures, which in turn will affect both the browsing choices and the availability of shade for Moose.

It is theorized that within the next 100 years temperatures will rise on average 9 – 13°F. in winter and 6 – 14°F. in summer (New Hampshire Fish & Game).  On top of that, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are at the southernmost part of the Moose’s range. The future does not look bright for the largest member of the deer family in the Northeast.

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20 responses

  1. In the 1960s we knew if average temperatures of the Earth rose 3 to 5 degrees F the Antarctic ice sheet will melt and slide into the ocean raising sea level 200-feet world wide. I predict moose will survive as being easily mobile.

    August 27, 2018 at 7:34 am

  2. Sue Wetmore

    And adding to all that stress in the moose is the scourge of tick infestation.

    August 27, 2018 at 7:34 am

  3. Sue

    Mary, this should be an article in the newspapers or a letter to the editor…please. Disheartening and discouraging future especially with the current administration. …”so Alfie asked me if I’d ask you to say a prayer for the wind, and the water and the wood and those who live there too.” (John Denver, Alfie’s Christmas Wish)

    August 27, 2018 at 7:48 am

    • I love Alfie’s Christmas Wish–makes me tear up every time.

      August 27, 2018 at 10:47 am

  4. cjbarg@aol.com

    mary although in the past t has risen as much as 10 f in as few as 10 yrs . the t rises you mentioned are probably a bit extreme . best . charlie

    August 27, 2018 at 7:53 am

  5. Also, here in Canada Moose are now plagued by ticks that have moved north. There are so many on their bodies last summer they found Moose dead totally covered in ticks.

    August 27, 2018 at 8:07 am

    • Very discouraging to hear about Canada, but thank you for informing us!

      August 27, 2018 at 9:40 am

  6. Bill on the hill

    …The heat cycle the earth is currently experiencing, be it man made or simply the earth itself or possibly a combination of both, moose will survive & will stay further north over time. Within our lifetimes I predict we will see less moose in the lower 48 as a direct result of disease & the extreme heat. I haven’t encountered a single moose on my property this season, however there is no lack of black bears! I have 3 or 4 bear bushes spread around my woods. Great post once again Mary…
    Thank you,
    Bill Farr…

    August 27, 2018 at 8:34 am

  7. Fearn Lickfield

    This makes me so sad. Praying for the moose. Amazing to see all the climate deniers here. Seriously?

    August 27, 2018 at 8:48 am

  8. tomandmeganshear

    Very sad to think of a world without moose. Great photo!

    MS

    Sent from my iPod

    >

    August 27, 2018 at 8:54 am

  9. Alice Pratt

    My wish is: “humans…(most) need to care more & take care of all life here on Earth!” So many ticks, sucking their blood, that the Moose are called ‘Ghost Moose.’ 😢

    August 27, 2018 at 8:54 am

  10. Tami

    Another issue for moose in my area is the devastation of the Eastern Hemlocks caused by hemlock wooly adelgid. At the park I work at on the coast of Maine, almost all of our mature hemlocks are dying off.

    August 27, 2018 at 11:26 am

  11. Bobbi Sabine

    Wondering why you capitalize “Moose.” Generally common names are not capitalized – only the Genera in the scientific binomial, or if the common name appears in a list or at the beginning of a sentence. You didn’t capitalize “deer” or “brainworm” or “ticks.”

    August 27, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    • You will find I’m not consistent about anything! I started capitalizing species’ common names when readers expressed a desire to know if a red-tailed hawk was just a hawk with a red tail, or if that was its common name. For clarity’s sake, I usually capitalize the common name of the plant or animal subject of the post, and sometimes I capitalize others, and sometimes not. Also, I don’t capitalize general terms, such as ticks or deer — only specific species, such as White-Tailed Deer! I always capitalize genus and not species when mentioning scientific names. If you look in any number of resource books, you will find that some authors capitalize common names, and others don’t. When I was writing Naturally Curious it took the publisher some time to decide which option to use. Thanks for your question!

      August 27, 2018 at 1:57 pm

  12. judilindsey

    Mary, I read your article about the squirrels migrating. Now I’ve seen so many as roadkill. What’s up with this? Thanks, Judi

    > WordPress.com

    August 27, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    • I think we just have to wait and see what happens as the fall progresses. Last year’s acorn crop near me was really good, and not as good this year, so lack of food may be forcing squirrels to migrate…time will tell!

      August 27, 2018 at 3:13 pm

  13. I didn’t realize moose needed it so cool. They must be really suffering this summer – it has been ungodly hot!

    August 27, 2018 at 8:07 pm

  14. Geoffrey Gardner

    Thanks for this piece, Mary. The future without Moose –and so much more– we are racing toward in not so very slow motion is a tragedy we may still be able to avoid.

    The key words in this piece about the climate crisis we face are “if no significant measures are taken to counter it.” Fortunately there are many such measures available to us. But it’s up to us to take them.

    Here in Vermont, one of them is a bill to prohibit all new fossil fuel infrastructure development that will return to the state legislature next session. When adopted, this measure will prevent any and all new oil and gas pipelines from crossing our state as well as any proposals to build gas-fired electric generation plants. This will clear the path for the rapid development of new and more effective renewable sources of energy, speeding along the transition we’ve got to make to renewables if we are to preserve the biodiversity we love and depend upon.

    To sign the petition urging Vermont state legislators to support and sponsor this legislation –or simply to learn more about it– go to https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/a-petition-demanding-no-new-fossil-fuel-infrastructure-in-vermont/

    Thanks again, Mary, for ringing this alarm so tellingly yet again.

    August 28, 2018 at 8:34 am

  15. Natalie Starr

    The moose population are such an important symbol of life in northern New England – thanks for pointing this devastating impact out Mary.

    August 31, 2018 at 11:49 am

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