The number of moose counted in the northeastern Minnesota aerial moose survey increased by one thousand from last year but the DNR says the trend still shows a decline in the moose population. When the margin of error and new methods of tracking and counting are taken into consideration the DNR sticks to their declining herd theory.
When nonhunting factors such as disease, bull and cow pairings, cow pregnancy rates, calf survival and predation are considered, indexes used to estimate herd viability drop below the levels at which researchers would like to see them. Lenarz said a study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota shows that non-hunting mortality has averaged 21 percent during the last six years. Elsewhere in North America, that rate generally falls between 8 and 12 percent. "Biologically, issuing 200-250 permits a year for a bull-only hunt doesn’t negatively impact Minnesota’s moose population," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "What directly impacts moose population is the cow and calf survival rates."
Issuing 200-250 permits a year for a bull only hunt may not biologically impact the moose population but the DNR fails to mention this was the first year cows were not allowed to be taken. Since the Minnesota moose hunt began hunters have been able to shoot cows, which according to the DNR, "directly impacts moose populations."
As residents of the Gunflint Trail we’ve noticed the declining trend in the moose population. Where we once would count up to 17 moose on a drive up the trail in the winter our record this year has been 8. We brought our concerns about the thriving deer population and the hunting of moose along the Gunflint Trail, especially cows, to the attention of the local DNR last year.
We’re hoping the bull only hunt will make a difference in the downward trend of our moose population. We’re also hoping the DNR will control the deer herd and carefully consider the implications of a moose hunt on the Gunflint Trail. A living and breathing moose on the Gunflint Trail is worth far more in tourism dollars than one riding out of the county in the back of a once in a life time moose hunter’s pick up truck.