Deer or Moose?

     Almost everyone has seen a deer crossing sign before.  Most people have had the opportunity to see a deer in the wild before too.  The deer population in Minnesota and other nearby states is growing and even in highly populated areas deer sightings are common. 

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     Moose sightings on the other hand are not so common.  The opportunity to see a moose is what brings many visitors to the Gunflint Trail and is what keeps them coming back.   The large, beautiful creature relaxes in roadside swamps, licks salt off of the road in the winter, and poses for our pictures.  A moose is a special animal and we are lucky to have them on the Gunflint Trail.

     The Gunflint Trail deer population appears to be in stride with the rest of the state.  Guests and residences are reporting seeing deer all over the Gunflint Trail.  At the end of the Trail where it was once rare to see a deer we are seeing many deer even late into the Fall.  The deer population is thriving thanks to a plentiful food supply created by the blowdown, logging and recent prescribed burns.  The lighter snowfalls and mild winters with warmer temperatures are also helping the deer population.  

     A large deer herd can have a detrimental effect not only on the forest but also on other animal species, specifically the moose.  Will the increased number of deer drive the moose farther North and away from the Gunflint Trail?  Will certain plant and tree species cease to exist because the deer density is too great?  Will brain worms that live in deer infect our healthy moose?  Unfortunately these are questions to which I do not have the answers. 

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    A recent article by Joe Albert in the Outdoor News describes a study being done in Itasca State Park.  Researchers are trying to determine what effects deer have on the forests in our state.  Researcher Emily Dunbar says, "It’s all part of an effort to ensure that deer populations are in line with what forest habitat can support, since deer, left unchecked, will eat themselves out of house and home."  Can the Gunflint Trail support a large deer herd?  Will the deer eat themselves and our moose out of house and home?  

     I wish I had the answers, but unfortunately I need to leave that to the experts.  I do have an opportunity for you to give your opinion about what you think the deer herd size should be on the Gunflint Trail.  The DNR is conducting an online survey until the end of the month that just takes minutes to complete.  If you are concerned about the deer population and the moose population on the Gunflint Trail then please let the DNR know.