Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed that there will be a 2012 moose hunting season. It is scheduled to open Sept. 29 and close Oct. 14. The DNR’s bull-only season will cull an estimated 50 moose from Minnesota’s herd. That herd size is about 4,200, that’s a significant decline from an estimated herd of about 8,840 in 2006. Only 87 tags will be issued to the “once in a lifetime” state moose hunters. (Each license is issued to a party of four.)
My concern: why, if the moose population has slipped by 50 percent in six years, have a hunt at all? Wouldn’t it make sense to cancel the season for a year or two and allow the herd to build back up before resuming hunting of the state’s largest mammal in our wilderness areas?
I’m old enough to recall the DNR closing whitetail deer hunting when I was a kid. In fact, I believe it happened twice.
Sportsmen and women are more interested in conserving and growing the herd for this and future generations, whether it’s the deer herd, moose or wolf population. In fact, it will be interesting to observe the number of wolves bagged during this fall’s first hunting season since the timber wolf was taken off the endangered species list in relationship to the number of moose that survive through the winter of 2012-13.
Yes, I know there are a number of factors, other than the timber wolf, that impact the moose herd population. There are parasites, fires in their primary habitation and severe winters of the past that allowed predators to take down the young or weakened members of the herd. I recognize the experts that have been monitoring the Minnesota moose herd have a better handle on the situation than this hunter has. However, I have observed in 64 years that backing off of culling a herd through hunting can enhance the size of the herd.
Perhaps there is no greater example of this than the timber wolf. Hunted to near extinction in the early part of the 20th century, the timber wolf has made a tremendous comeback in our state and across the upper Midwest.
Other examples of non-game creatures that have made tremendous recovery from near extinction include the bald eagle and snowy owls.
I am certain that the revenues lost by closing the moose hunting season would be a financial hardship for the DNR. However, that should not be a deciding factor whether to close the moose hunting season for one or more years to allow the herd to regenerate.
As a native Minnesotan, I am not interested in watching our state’s moose herd dwindle to near extinction like the herd on Isle Royale.
It is unlikely that the DNR will reverse its decision for 2012. However, I hope it will consider closing the hunting in 2013 and beyond.