Moose (Alces alces americanus) populations in many areas along the southern extent of the North American moose range, including Minnesota, have experienced decline. Ascertaining neonate health and cause-specific mortality is critical where calf survival is low and understanding underlying causes of population dynamics is important. To investigate moose neonate health and causes of mortality, we studied 43 calves shortly after parturition during 2013–15 and 2018. The observed natural calf mortality rate was 84% by the following January of each calving season. Most natural calf mortalities were caused by black bear (Ursus americanus) or wolf (Canis lupus) predation or associated injuries (71%) but also included stillbirth (16%), orphaning (7%), generalized bacterial infection (3%), and hunter harvest (3%). Neonate health was evaluated in 27 calves by hematology, serum biochemistry profile, and maternally derived immunoglobulin. General health parameters were mostly within an expected range for normal health and adequate maternal immunoglobulin transfer. Importantly, these data contribute to a growing body of literature on moose neonate health and is the first report, to our knowledge, of maternally derived immunity in moose neonates.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Grand Portage Reservation Tribal Council and the Minnesota Zoo for their direct support of this project. Thanks also to Donald Jorgensen for his expertise in validating and performing the radial immunodiffusion assays for this study. Recognition is given to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for their corresponding work to understand causes of calf mortality in Minnesota. This work could not have been accomplished without the dedication of the Grand Portage Trustlands staff, who rallied when needed to loan equipment, courier biological specimens, or cover other ongoing projects. Many thanks to the funding agencies that have supported these efforts, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant Pro-gram, the Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indianapolis Zoo Conservation Grant, and the Minnesota Zoo Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Fund.
© Wildlife Disease Association 2021.
- Maternal antibodies
- Moose calf mortality
- Neonatal ungulate health
- Passive transfer
- Serum biochemical profile