In Minnesota, a culturally iconic animal is facing hard times.
Concerned about diminishing numbers in the state's moose population, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources proposed this week that the animal be classified as a species of “special concern.”
The proposal is part of a general update to the state’s list of special concern, threatened and endangered species. The department said Monday that it was looking to add 67 animals and 114 plants to the list, while removing 14 animals and 15 plants.
Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Department of Natural Resources, said moose were not leaving Minnesota, but dying off. The exact reasons for the declining population are unclear, but likely culprits include parasites, climate change and predators, he said.
“It could be a host of things,” Cornicelli said.
A revised endangered species list has been in the works for five years, officials said, and won't be completed until public hearings are held.
If the new classification of “special concern” is approved, such a designation would not ban moose hunting, said Richard J. Baker, the department’s endangered species coordinator. That would change if the status becomes threatened or endangered.
“It’s a classification that means we need to pay attention to this species,” Baker said.