Research into moose in Norway suggests that those roaming the forests of the south suffer from a host of physical ailments and disadvantages not found in their northern cousins.
Among the differences identified in recent studies, southern moose weighed 20 kilograms less on average than northern moose of the same age, and also had far more dangerous toxins in their blood.
Newspaper Aftenposten also reported this week that cases of osteoporosis and liver problems were also more common among moose in the south, which tend to become fertile a year later than their counterparts in the north.
Historically, the southern moose’s health-related deficiencies were attributed to the negative effects of increased population density – but such problems have persisted even after the number of moose has decreased markedly over the past 20 years, as a result of a larger hunting quota.
Researchers have pointed to the greater number of heavy metals found in plants in the south as one of the reasons for these results. Such metals are more common because of the region’s exposure to acid rain and other dangerous precipitation largely caused by polluters in other countries, which brings sulphuric acid, nitric acid, mercury and arsenic into the ecosystem.
In addition, thallium, which is created in metal production, is far more prevalent among southern moose, and is known to affect the creatures’ nervous systems.
Research fellow Marit Nordløkken of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Norges teknisk-naturvitenskaplige universitet, NTNU) in Trondheim has collected 700 moose livers from hunters across the country for analysis, as well as a broad spectrum of vegetation eaten by the animal. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the national veterinary institute and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (Norsk institutt for naturforskning, NINA) have joined the investigation.