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Moose hold a special place in the hearts of most Minnesotans. To many, they represent wilderness and the north woods like no other animal. Native Americans in the region have long had a sacred connection to moose, and the name itself means “eater of twigs” in Ojibwe. But moose aren’t doing well in Minnesota. In the northwestern part of the state, the population has collapsed, dropping from over 4,000 animals in the mid-1980s to less than 100 today. The focus now is on the herd in northeastern Minnesota, which is also on the decline. The 2010 aerial moose survey estimates the population at about 5,500 animals, down from last year's estimate of 7,500. Teams of researchers, concerned individuals, institutions, and agencies are trying to understand what's happening to the moose, and why.