Winter nutrition study


A researcher collects a snow-urine sample in northeastern Minnesota.

The urine northeastern Minnesota's moose deposit in the winter snow are allowing researchers to assess how nutrition may be impacting moose survival, population dynamics and habitat choices.

Statistically rigorous comparisons won't be available until 2020. But preliminary comparisons entering the fourth year of the study suggest that when moose are hungry, population estimates decrease and fewer of the collared moose DNR is tracking survive.

The relationships between survival and nutrition might seem obvious. But they add additional factors to consider and analyze with the information now being collected and documented in the moose adult and calf mortality studies.


Locations of snow-urine samples collected in winter 2015.
Locations of snow-urine samples collected in winter 2015.

Collecting fresh urine samples from snow provides researchers with a cost-effective way to collect samples without disturbing moose. This method allows hundreds of samples to be collected from many different moose over varying habitat and landscapes.

The number and variety of specimens provide a broad view of the behavior, condition and factors of a large number of animals.


  • As the number of snow-urine samples with higher levels of urea increased, population estimates made independent of the nutrition study decreased.
  • More snow-urine samples with higher urea levels also corresponded to a decrease in the number of collared moose that survived.
  • A higher heat stress index during the winter corresponded to more snow-urine samples with higher urea levels.

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