DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Wildlife managers hope a new moose management and research plan will keep the majestic mammals roaming northern Minnesota for generations to come.
The draft seeks to bolster research into what's killing Minnesota's moose faster than they can reproduce and to find out what can be done, if anything.
The proposal includes measures to restrict deer population densities in northeastern Minnesota because they carry brain worm parasites fatal to moose, a ban on recreational deer feeding in the primary moose range to avoid boosting deer numbers, new limits on moose hunting and steps to improve habitat.
The draft, which was released Monday and includes recommendations from an 18-member advisory committee, is open for public comment through Sept. 30. The final version is due later this fall.
The Department of Natural Resources estimates about 4,900 moose live in northeastern Minnesota, down 11 percent from last year and down from more than 8,000 a decade ago. Northwestern Minnesota's moose population has crashed to fewer than 100 today. An aerial survey in the northeast last winter showed only 24 calves per 100 cows, the lowest ever recorded.
Experts still aren't fully sure why. Some combination of higher temperatures, parasites, deer, disease and other factors is suspected.
Lou Cornicelli, the agency's big game program coordinator, told the Duluth News Tribune (http://bit.ly/pHapCC ) there appears to be no magic cure. He also said funding for more research remains a major hurdle.
"This isn't a linear deal where we can say, 'If we do that, this will happen,'" he said. "We don't know how moose will react, or even if they will."
The DNR already has moved to cut hunting permits in half, from 213 bulls-only licenses last year to just 105 this year.
Minnesota DNR moose page: http://www.mndnr.gov/moose
Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.