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Text messages from moose? Minn. DNR counting on it

Published 6:25am Sunday, January 6, 2013

ST. PAUL — Minnesota researchers will soon get text messages from dead moose.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Friday it will conduct research aimed at better understanding the sharp decline in the state’s moose population. Through a combination of GPS technology and implanted devices, researchers think they can get a quicker handle on the locations and causes of moose deaths.

Researchers believe the study has value beyond the iconic giant of the north woods, because the ailments killing moose could shed light on health threats to other species, including humans.

Starting later this month, wildlife resource officials plan to capture 100 adults and 50 calves in northeastern Minnesota. All of them will be fitted with $2,500 tracking collars and many will also have $900 mortality implant transmitters put in their digestive tracks.

Those with the implants will be the most valuable research targets because when an animal’s heart stops beating it will trigger an instant text message to researchers, who will get coordinates for finding the carcass to help them retrieve it within 24 hours. That’s key because moose organs decompose quickly or the animals get ravaged by prey, meaning researchers can’t get a good read on what’s causing them to die.