Three Minnesota tribes have canceled their seasonal moose hunts because of the animals’ dwindling numbers.
The latest to do so, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, confirmed on Friday September 13 that they would not hold even a limited hunt this year. Although the decline—35 percent in just one year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources—did not appear to be affected by the limited hunting of the tribes for sustenance, the Fond du Lac decided, after issuing permits for a maximum of 25 bull moose in ceded territory, to err on the side of caution.
“Their original decision to hold a hunt was really split among the community members, and this decision was, too. But, yes, the decision is to take this year off and try to see what caused this precipitous decline,” Band Chairwoman Karen Diver told the Duluth News Tribune. “We’ll review this annually as we see what direction the population is going.”
The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa each canceled their respective hunts earlier this month, the latter after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources threatened them with legal action. State officials had held that a court agreement between Minnesota and the two bands prohibits them from holding a hunt if the state has canceled its hunt, Minnesota Public Radio reported on September 6. The hunt would have occurred in 1854 ceded territory, off-reservation land in which the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa still have hunting and fishing rights under treaty. The Fond du Lac are not subject to the court agreement.
The state is on the verge of classifying the majestic animals as threatened or endangered, if their numbers don’t start increasing, the News Tribune said. Earlier this year moose were placed on the state’s list of species of concern, after an aerial survey showed an accelerated decline.
As recently as 2006, the Department of Natural Resources said, the population had been as high as 8,840. But the January 2013 survey showed that moose had dwindled to 2,760 from 4,230 in 2012.
“The state’s moose population has been in decline for years but never at the precipitous rate documented this winter,” said resources department commissioner Tom Landwehr in a media release back in February. “This is further and definitive evidence the population is not healthy. It reaffirms the conservation community’s need to better understand why this iconic species of the north is disappearing from our state.”
The Department of Natural Resources will not entertain the idea of a new hunt until the moose population has rebounded, the statement said.