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.
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Vol. 57 • No. 1