Photo courtesy of carolynconner.
While Minnesota’s gray wolf population continues to grow like moustache hair on my aunt Marge, moose are continuing to produce a completely inverted population chart. According to the Minnesota DNR, moose numbers dropped to approximately 4,230 as determined by aerial counts done last month, down from an estimated 4,900 only a year ago. And the bigger picture is much more disheartening: The Minnesota moose population was an estimated 8,840 in 2006.
You don’t need to be the head cashier at Wal-Mart to figure out these moose need help.
With these declining stats comes the inevitable question, and one DNR officials and state biologists are looking at right now: Does Minnesota need to stop hunting these moose?
The deciding factor, again according to the Minnesota DNR, comes from “science-based triggers,” one of which involves the bull-to-cow ratio. If that ratio drops below 0.67 bulls per cow for 3 consecutive years, the season will likely close—and we’re dangerously close to that now. Although that ratio dipped to 0.64 bulls/cow in 2011, it jumped to 1.08 this year.
As it stands now, Minnesota is coordinating a once-in-a-lifetime bulls-only hunt, supplying 105 tags in 2011, which was less than half the number offered in 2010.
Got all those numbers straight?
It’s perfectly clear to me that hunting is not the driving force that’s causing the moose numbers to plummet (that, according to multiple studies, is being blamed on disease and parasites). Heck, wolves aren’t even getting the finger-point on this one.
Fact: Any moose done in by a hunter’s bullet is one that’s no longer going to dirty-dance with cows to enhance the population. It’s impossible to argue that point I’ve heard made all too often recently. But what this short-sighted view fails to illuminate is that with a nixed moose hunting season comes a big loss in study-funding revenue to help get these iconic critters back on track. With the end of moose hunting in Minnesota will come a decreased interest in the species—I promise you that—and this issue needs to be on the forefront of every conservation-minded person and organization, in our out of Minnesota’s borders. And, like the wolf issue exemplifies, once the hunting opportunity goes away it will be exponentially more difficult to get it back.
So, what’s the solution? Hell if I know. If you’ve got an idea, I’d love to hear it.
Keep your nose to the wind.