The Gunflint Trail is known for the moose that roam the roads and woods near our Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. These majestic creatures are not the every day sort of animal like a deer and people love to see them. We love to see them too and while we are concerned with what is killing them naturally we're also concerned with the number of moose taken during the annual moose hunt.
The problem with allowing the moose hunt on the Gunflint Trail and elsewhere in Northeastern Minnesota is that healthy bulls are being killed. The ratio of bulls to cows was once 1 to 1 and now it is 64 to 100 in Northeastern Minnesota. This year's moose hunters killed 109 bull moose and area band members killed an additional 26 bull moose and 7 cows.
How low does the number of moose need to drop before the MN DNR decides to stop allowing hunters to kill healthy bull moose each year? While the number of moose killed may sound like a small percentage but the number of moose continues to decline each year. Last year there was an estimated 5500 moose and this year that number is down to 4900.
I know large numbers of moose are dropping from unknown causes. But I also know the reason over 100 of them are killed every year. I would think one way to stop the rapid decline of our moose population would be to not allow hunting. While researchers fly around in helicopters collaring moose the MN DNR prints packets of information to be handed out by the end of March so folks can apply to help elminate more of the already declining moose population.
From the MN DNR Released February 17, 2011
Minnesota’s moose population in northeastern Minnesota continues to decline, according to results of an aerial survey released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Survey results revealed lower moose numbers and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continued a 14-year decline, dropping to a record low of 24 calves per 100 cows. The proportion of cows accompanied by twin calves was at the lowest level since 1999, which contributed to the record-low calf-to-cow ratio.
“These indices along with results from research using radio-collared moose all indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Dr. Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader.
Moose numbers are estimated using an aerial survey of the northeastern Minnesota moose range. Based on the survey, wildlife researchers estimate that there were 4,900 moose in northeastern Minnesota. Last year’s estimate was 5,500.
Since 2005, the downward trend in moose numbers has been statistically significant. In addition to the decline in the calf-to-cow ratio, the bull-to-cow ratio also continued to decline, with an estimated 64 bulls per 100 cows.
Aerial surveys, conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast, are based on flying transects in 40 randomly selected plots spread across the Arrowhead region of Minnesota.
A study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 determined that nonhunting mortality was substantially higher than in moose populations outside of Minnesota. Combined with the reduced number of calves, the high mortality has resulted in a population with a downward trend.
The causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 114 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites. Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains. Nine deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.
The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Natural Resources has recommended funding a study beginning in 2012 that would concentrate on identifying factors responsible for high mortality.
In August 2009, a Moose Advisory Committee convened by the DNR released its findings, which were used in the development of a legislatively mandated moose research and management plan. This plan is undergoing final internal review and should be available for public comment soon.
The Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual survey.