27 October 2013

Forget the polar bears, what about the moose?

As the Earth inexorably warms up due to human folly, one species after another pays the price. The most iconic example is of course the polar bear. And why not—what is cuter and cuddlier than the bear with the thick white coat and the black nose?

But less cuddly creatures are also suffering. For example, the ungainly moose, one of nature's least handsome, but no less precious, beasts.

According to New Scientist, moose are experiencing a die-off across the southern edge of their global range, in what might indicate the start of a huge climate shock to the world's boreal forests. The direct causes vary, from liver flukes in Minnesota, to a worm that blocks the moose's carotid arteries in Wyoming, to massive tick infections in New Hampshire. Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University, claims, "The fact that you've got different proximate causes killing off the moose suggests there's an underlying ultimate cause," and he suspects that ultimate cause is climate change.

Moose, a cold climate animal, can become heat-stressed when the weather gets too warm, preventing them from building reserves of body fat to help them survive the winter and weakening their immune systems such that they are more susceptible to parasites.

So as we lament the suffering of our own species as we increasingly foul our planet, let us spare a scrap of empathy for the moose as well. And of course I was just kidding about the polar bears—we mustn't forget about them either.

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