Officials of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say it is likely they will cut the number of moose hunting permits in half for this fall’s moose season. That follows the latest moose population survey released earlier this month. An aerial survey conducted in January shows moose numbers continue to decline in northeast Minnesota.
The DNR says the decline is statistically significant. The area moose population has dropped to just 4,900 animals, a decline from last year’s estimate of 5,500 and down from 7,800 the year before.
In 2010, 212 moose permits were issued for the bulls-only season. That means a few more than 100 permits may be issued in 2011.
While the population trend is troubling enough, even more worrisome is the extremely low cow-to-calf ratio. In the latest survey, the ratio declined to just 24 calves per 100 cows and is a continuation of a steady decline for more than a decade.
The ratio of bulls to cows has also reached critically low levels, with just 66 bulls per 100 cows. That’s considered close to a critical threshold, according to Tom Rusch, the DNR’s wildlife manager in Tower. He said if there is a decline in that ratio for three consecutive years, the DNR would consider no moose season at all.
Furthermore, Rusch said there appears to be no clear answer why the moose population is declining. The latest survey results will likely increase the pressure on researchers to issue at least preliminary findings as soon as possible. Rusch said he expects to see a report in a matter of weeks.