New Moose Birth Documented

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

A radio collar attached to an adult cow moose has provided state wildlife officials with the first documentation of a moose calf being born in Wisconsin in more than a century.

While there were no observations of the calf in Wisconsin, Wisconsin biologists have been tracking the calf’s mother during the spring and summer of the last two years, according to Adrian Wydeven, a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources endangered and nongame species program. During that time she had an established summer range in northern Forest County, then during the fall and winter, headed back to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she had originally been collared by biologists from the Michigan DNR.

"We never saw a calf during the summer of 2002 while she was being monitored by DNR pilots, but it is very difficult to see a moose during summer from the air. We relied on the radio collar to track her, just as we rely on radio-collars to track wolves, which are also difficult to see from the air during the summer," Wydeven said.

"But after she returned to Michigan in December, Michigan DNR biologists discovered she had a calf with her when they tracked her in southern Baraga County about 45 miles northeast of her Wisconsin home range."

The adult moose cow, which biologists identify by the number 5155, was last detected in the UP on March 5, 2002 and was first detected in northern Forest County on April 29. She remained in her summer home range through October 29.

"We know that moose do not normally have calves prior to about May 15 and most have their calves by mid June." Wydeven said. "Thus it is most likely that the calf was born sometime while the moose was in Wisconsin."

State officials estimate the Wisconsin moose population at about 20 to 40, and say that it probably varies quite a bit.

"What we’ve learned with moose 5155 is that moose can migrate between summer range in Wisconsin and winter range in Michigan. There may be other moose doing this that we have not detected. Our hope is that this moose will teach this migration pattern to her calf," Wydeven said.

As with many efforts to protect and enhance nongame species in Wisconsin, work to track and protect moose in the state are supported in part through donations to the state’s Endangered Resources Fund. The fund, which is supported through donations on a checkoff on Wisconsin income tax forms and through the sale of Endangered Resources wolf license plates, accounts for about two-thirds of the budget of the DNR’s endangered and nongame program. Along with funding the management of endangered, threatened as well as nongame species, the fund also supports management and protection of State Natural Areas, and research, development and management of the Natural Heritage Inventory of rare species and habitats found statewide.

Moose originally occurred across the northern third or half of Wisconsin in the mixed conifer-hardwoods forest. They were fairly common in these areas until the mid or late 1800s, but by the early 1900s were considered extirpated -- no longer found -- in the state.

A few isolated reports of moose occurred in northern Wisconsin in the mid 1900s, as moose from Isle Royale were moved to the Michigan mainland. In the 1960s, moose began to be seen in the northwestern part of the state as the Minnesota moose population increased. In all, there have been more than 280 observations of moose reported to DNR biologists over the last decade.

Between 1985 and 1987, the Michigan DNR released 61 moose west of Marquette, in the western UP.

That population has grown to several hundred moose and has resulted in moose occasionally being seen northeast and north central Wisconsin. Cow 5155 was a descendant of the moose reintroduced into Michigan and was radio-collared by the Michigan DNR in 2000. Michigan and Wisconsin biologists worked together in September 2001 to re-capture the moose while she was in Wisconsin and fit her with a radio collar that would allow Wisconsin biologists to track her movements.

A collared bull moose from Michigan was discovered near Fifield in Price County in February 2002. He remained in the area until April, then moved back into Michigan.

"We were not sure if he had used Wisconsin as his winter range and using Michigan for summer range, or if he was just making some long distant exploratory moves as moose occasionally do," Wydeven said.

Moose are the largest cervid -- or member of the deer family -- in the world. Adult males can weigh between 900 and 1,400 pounds while females weigh between 700 and 1,100 pounds. Their large antlers reach between 4 and 5 feet across. Like white-tailed deer, they shed their antlers each winter and grow new antlers in velvet each spring. Their habitat includes spruce-fir forests, conifer swamps, and birch-aspen and willow thickets.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Adrian Wydeven - (717) 762--3204 ext. 107