The densely wooded northern
Minnesota terrain is helping keep moose on the loose.
A helicopter crew trying
to net moose from the air about 37 miles north of
Two Harbors was still having difficulty capturing
animals on Tuesday, said Mark Lenarz, a research biologist
with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The crew from Helicopter
Capture Services is trying to net moose from the air
so that biologists can fit the animals with radio
collars for a five-year study. The $488,000 study
will help monitor moose movements and mortality.
The crew captured and
put radio collars on four moose on Monday, the first
day of the project. By midday Tuesday, two more moose
had been fitted with the radio-transmitter collars.
Originally, biologists with the state, three northern
Chippewa bands and the U.S. Geological Survey had
hoped to trap 60 moose in five days.
The problem is that the
helicopter crew cannot find good places to capture
"They can't find large
enough open areas to shoot the net on them,'' Lenarz
said. "Unless things get better (Tuesday afternoon),
we'll be shifting our base of operations to the...
Dumbell Lake area (near Isabella) where there are
a lot more lakes and frozen marshes.''
The crew would then use
the helicopter to drive the moose onto lakes or marshes
for netting, Lenarz said.
Originally, the plan was
for the three-person helicopter crew to net the moose,
transfer them to a sling and fly them to a site near
a road where a team of biologists could affix the
collars and take biological samples. But because progress
has been slow, the helicopter crew has been given
permission to affix the collars and do some sampling
where the moose is netted, Lenarz said.
"It depends on the individual
situation,'' Lenarz said. "If they've had a difficult
time capturing the animal, then they may simply slap
a collar on it and maybe take a blood sample. But
most important is to get the radio collar on.''
One moose, a mature bull,
died Monday morning because of the stress of being
netted and transported. On Tuesday, a cow moose that
proved difficult to net was simply let go, Lenarz
"It would have stressed
her too much to put a collar on,'' he said.
Although the helicopter
crew members are not biologists, they routinely take
biological samples and put radio collars on animals,
Lenarz said. He said the data collection that he and
other biologists wanted to do is not mandatory for
the effectiveness of the five-year study.
"All the data we're collecting
here (near the road site) is optional,'' Lenarz said.
"We'd certainly like to collect the data because it
would give us information we could develop into management
tools. But the first priority is human safety, and
the second priority is the animals' safety.''
Blood samples taken from
the animals indicate whether a cow is pregnant and
also can be used to determine whether the moose is
suffering from brainworm, a potentially fatal disease
that moose can contract from white-tailed deer. Fecal
samples also can be used to determine whether a cow
is carrying a calf, Lenarz said.
Various measurements of
the moose's body indicate whether the animal is a
yearling or an adult and what kind of condition it's
Depending on how much
time helicopter crew members spend with a moose, they
could get all of that data in addition to fitting
it with a radio collar.
Biologists have contracted
with the helicopter crew from Marysvale, Utah, for
five days, Lenarz said.
"It's looking unlikely
that we'll have 60 moose by Friday,'' Lenarz said.
"We'll just go for the maximum number of moose we
The original plan called
for the helicopter team to return next winter to put
collars on more moose to replace animals that had
died during the year.
"Perhaps then we can fill
in the remainder of our sample and bring the total
up to 60,'' Lenarz said.