Friday, February 8, 2013

Moose Hunting is Off!

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been doing a moose count in the northern part of the state. What they’ve found out has thrown a scare into naturalists, ecologists and plain-old animal lovers!
by Charlie Leck

A front-page story in yesterday’s StarTribune, our local paper here in the Twin Cities, says that the moose population in the state has “plummeted by one third in the last year! Repeat that last part slowly to yourself: “…in the last year!”

As we’d say here in Minnesota: “Ain’t that somethin’ now?”

The story was posted by Josephine Marcotty. If you have questions to ask her, you can email her at because she has a good rep for answering readers’ questions. Read, first, my summary of her story.

The word “alarmed” is used a lot by the scientists and statisticians over there at National Resources. I’d bet so!

Moose hunting has been canceled – called off – brought to a sudden conclusion! No more hunting moose in Minnesota!

The big, out-front, inevitable question is: “What is decimating these majestic animals?”

Only eight years ago, in 2005, the census came back to tell us we had over 8,000 moose in the state. This year’s count is reported in at 2,760. In January of 2012 the count was 4,230. OMG! If this count is correct, and it sure sounds like it is, we’ve got a big problem on our hands and the brainy types over there at the department and on the University of Minnesota campus better get to work to figure this out. Because, at this rate, the moose could be gone – GONE – from Minnesota in just a matter of a decade. The method used to take this count has drawn global attention and a great deal of praise for its thoroughness. The department used planes and helicopters to search for the dark-colored moose on the fresh, pure, white Minnesota snow. The process of fitting tracking collars on one-hundred of the moose has already begun. This will allow scientists to gather a significant amount of data about the habits, practices and movements of the moose; and, then perhaps, to some kind of answer to this knotty question. Even more significantly, the observers will be alerted when a moose dies and they can try to get to its body before it is consumed by scavengers. Then they can haul the body into university labs for examinations and determinations about the cause of death. This spring, the department is also hoping to put collars on 50 new born calves to track them in the same manner.

Before the hunting crowd all get their underwear knotted up, the state mucky-mucks are making it clear that this has not been caused by hunting. They say they’re suspending hunting because, frankly, because they don’t know what else to do. The researchers are making a list of the numerous possibilities – climate change, predators, infestations of ticks, brain worm. It’s the only thing they can think of doing right now. The Department of Natural Resources has taken its case to three different bands of the Chippewa nation to ask them to suspend hunting as well. The agency’s director points out that the hunts “are of great cultural importance to the tribes.” It will be a tough decision for them to make, but we’ve got to hope they’ll understand that soon there may be no moose to be found.

How could the warming climate be causal? Moose are incredibly susceptible to heat. If it’s too hot in the summer, instead of eating, they lay low in damp, dark places to escape the temperatures. If they don’t eat, they don’t build up the fat that is required to get them through a long Minnesota winter. The collars placed on these selected animals will tell the researchers a lot about the habitats of the moose in both summer and winter.

We can be sure the researchers will come up with an answer eventually. What’s frightening is that there may be no solution to whatever might be happening to these elegant creatures.

This is a story worth watching. I’ll keep my national readers up-to-date on what the Department of Natural Resources comes up with.

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1 comment:

  1. I couln't resist thinking that I haven't seen one of those Moose Lodges lately. Has the Fraternal Order of Moose become extinct? On a serious note, this business of climate change is not receiving the attention it deserves.