ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – There are a lot of moose in the Adirondacks. The New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) puts the estimate around 600-700 as of 2018, across the Adirondack Park’s 6 million acres. Those moose need a lot of space, and this year, the DEC is tracking what they do within it.

This week, the DEC announced the start of a new research program focusing on those several hundred moose; or, at least, a few of them. This winter, 14 moose were fitted with GPS collars, which the DEC will use for tracking, to better understand what life is like for an Adirondack moose.

“Moose health is a critical issue across many moose populations, including the Adirondacks,” said Krysten Schuler, Wildlife Disease Ecologist and Co-Director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab. “Through previous work, we identified emerging health issues and are now excited to test hypotheses about the influence of parasites on juvenile moose survival.”

The moose will be safely monitored from a distance using the collars. The DEC plans to track moose activity patterns around the Adirondacks over time, as well as where they go and when.

Mortality rates will be monitored as well. While adult moose have no predators in the state, black bears and coyotes are known to feed on calves. Brainworm and other parasite types can also attack moose nervous systems and lead to death. Around the roads passing between Adirondack towns, vehicle collisions are also a significant mortality factor.

Moose are a protected species in New York. Data like this helps the DEC to continue work that began with population recovery efforts a long time in the making.

“New York’s storied moose population, which began its recovery in the 1980s, is a critical part of our state’s biodiversity,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC’s new research partnership will collect valuable data to help us better understand these fascinating animals and guide management for moose in the Adirondacks and across their range.”

That partnership is with researchers at the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), and Native Range Capture Services. Funding comes through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by way of a Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration grant.

These 14 moose won’t be the first to have their lives studied. Previous DEC research has shown how moose survive and reproduce in the Adirondacks, but the survival rates of calves – and how far out they disperse from where they’re born – is a lesser-understood factor. This new effort is intended to help change that.

Although their diets require a lot of free space to roam, no moose lives in a vacuum. The ecosystem around the subjects matter, too. The project will also involve sampling of white-tailed deer pellets, as well as water sources in the areas surrounding moose habitats. These are common breeding grounds for the brain worm and giant liver fluke that can threaten moose lives. How common, exactly, is one question the DEC hopes to answer.

“Moose health is a critical issue across many moose populations, including the Adirondacks,” said Krysten Schuler, Wildlife Disease Ecologist and Co-Director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab. “Through previous work, we identified emerging health issues and are now excited to test hypotheses about the influence of parasites on juvenile moose survival.”