In what some are characterizing as an excellent example of scientific wildlife management at its finest, it was announced at last week’s Natural Resources Commission meeting that the DNR’s Wildlife Division is recommending that no hunting season be offered for Michigan’s moose herd this year (to see PowerPoint presentation click: here).
As many know, the goal of having a sustainable moose herd in Michigan which could some day offer a recreational hunt began in earnest with the 1985 and 1987 releases. During the 1996 to 2007 period, annual population growth rates were estimated to be 8% to 10%, with the 2007 Western U.P. total estimated to have been approximately 350.
The 2013 winter survey estimated that there are 451 moose in the Western U.P. range, only a slight increase from the 2010 estimate of 433. This rate of growth equates to 1.4% annually over this three year period. Although the eastern range is not officially surveyed, the total moose population in this area is believed to be less than 100.
And now to the relevance of this topic to the issue of scientific wildlife management. It may be recalled that 2010 Michigan legislation which added moose to the list of game species also created the Moose Hunting Advisory Council. In addition to the recommendation of the DNR Wildlife Division not to hold a hunt at this time, it remains the recommendation of this citizens advisory council to only hold a hunt if annual population growth meets or exceeds 3%.
However unrelated to the Michigan situation, the 50%+ population decline experienced in Minnesota since 2010 is also likely contributing to wildlife managers’ level of caution. The population of Minnesota moose is now estimated to be 2,760 animals, down from 4,230 in 2012 and 8,840 in 2006.