ISLAND POND, Vt. (AP) — Scientists say they fear shifting climate conditions are to blame for Vermont's struggling moose population.

Vermont Public Radio reports that nearly half of tracked moose died in the first year of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's ongoing multi-year study. The moose population is continuing to decline or stay stagnant despite a significant reduction in moose hunting permits issued.

The department's moose project leader Cedric Alexander says studies suggest warmer, wetter weather allows two moose parasites to thrive: winter ticks and brainworms.

The department plans to track the moose that survive for all three years of the study. They plant to collar 30 more calves in each of the study's second and third years.