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Steve Karnowski, Associated Press, Published March 27 2012

Minnesota to allow limited moose hunt this fall

MINNEAPOLIS — Despite the sharp decline in the state's moose population, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday it will allow a moose hunting season this fall.

DNR officials told reporters they expect state-licensed hunters will kill about 50 moose during the bulls-only season from Sept. 29-Oct. 14. They expect three Ojibwe bands in northeastern Minnesota that harvested 31 moose last year will take about that many again, or maybe fewer.

Minnesota's moose population is estimated at 4,230, a 14 percent decline from last year's estimate and less than half the 2006 estimate. Wildlife managers said the reasons likely include parasites, diseases and warmer weather. They said hunting is not to blame because it's so limited that there are still enough bulls to father the next generation of moose.

Erik Thorson, the DNR's acting big-game coordinator, said the state is sticking to a management plan developed from recommendations by a moose advisory committee. The plan calls for an end to moose hunting only under three conditions: the bull-to-cow ratio drops below 67 bulls per 100 cows for three straight years, hunter success drops below 30 percent for three consecutive years, or if hunter success in a particular zone drops below 20 percent for three years in a row. He said the state is well above those thresholds except for two hunting zones that will be closed south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near Isabella.

Rolf Peterson, a moose researcher at Michigan Technical University who chaired the advisory committee, acknowledged that some may argue that it makes more sense to end hunting so that more people will get the increasingly rare chance to see a moose in the wild.

“Fifty moose harvested is 50 moose less. Some of them will be replaced. I don't want to sugarcoat harvest loss — it's 50 moose less. ... The DNR has the difficult job of balancing those uses in a sensible manner,” Peterson said.

Minnesota has been one of the few strongholds for moose in the Lower 48 states. While they're common in Canada, only Alaska and parts of New England and the Rocky Mountains also have large populations. Peterson said the pockets of moose along this latitude scattered from Wyoming to the Northeast “are not doing spectacularly well” but they do seem to be doing better in areas where there are fewer deer that can spread diseases and parasites. The planned resumption of wolf hunting in Minnesota this fall probably won't benefit the moose, he said.

The DNR plans to issue 87 moose permits this year, compared with 92 last year when state-licensed hunters took 53 bulls. The application period opens Monday and runs through May 4. As before, the once-in-a-lifetime permits will be issued by a random drawing to parties of two to four people. Hunters who've had moose permits since 1991 aren't eligible with one exception: 11 permits will be offered to parties who were selected in last year's lottery but chose not to hunt because of access problems caused by the huge Pagami Creek forest fire between Ely and Isabella.

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Online:

Minnesota DNR moose hunting page: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/moose/index.html


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