Bullwinkle and the rest of the Minnesota moose herd will be a no show in 2013 Minnesota hunting plans because the ruminant mammal of the deer family has shown huge population declines in recent years.
Last week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that the moose hunting season will be closed in Minnesota. The announcement follows an aerial survey of moose in northeastern Minnesota. The survey indicated a decline of 35 percent of the moose herd in the last year. Since 2010, the Bullwinkle and friends have witnessed a decline of 52 percent.
The survey found about 2,760 of the monsters of the state’s forested marshlands, which is down from 4,230 just a year ago.
“There’s just a plummeting population here,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said during a news conference. “We, as all Minnesotans, I think, are very concerned about the moose population.”
This is a smart move.
Moose hunters, like all ethical hunters, tend to be the best conservationists. Closing the season until the moose herd recovers from whatever is causing the sharp decline is a common sense approach.
There is some loss to predation. With an increase in the number of wolves in the moose region, there will be loss of moose along with deer in that habitat.
In an aggressive approach to finding answers, the DNR’s wildlife manager Lou Cornicelli said researchers have applied GPS collars to 100 moose in the northeastern part of the state to study adult moose deaths. In May, researchers will be placing collars on 50 moose calves to learn what they can about calf mortality.
What has caused the rapid decline in the state’s moose population? Some have suggested climate change — the rapid rise in temperatures — may be one possible link.
Other reasons may have to do with diseases the moose is hit by. Parasites and changing habitat might also have contributed to the moose population decline.
Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager, said at this rate of decline, it will only take a few years for the moose population in northeastern Minnesota to reach a low enough number that makes it difficult to survey the population. It’s what happened to the northwestern Minnesota moose population.
For now, moose hunters are most concerned about finding the cause of this huge decline in the herd’s numbers. Hunting is secondary, as it should be.