As Minnesota's moose population declines, more people are asking why the state still allows hunting them.
Department of Natural Resources biologists say the restricted bulls-only hunt has no adverse effects on the herd's overall population, which was estimated to number 4,230 in 2012. Last fall, state-licensed hunters killed just 45 bulls. Add in tribal hunters and the total harvest was fewer than 100.
University of Minnesota Duluth researcher John Pastor told the Duluth News Tribune for a story published Sunday (http://bit.ly/WaMBEt ) he knows moose hunting is popular, but he thinks it's time to suspend the hunt.
"I think the safest thing would be to not hunt them," Pastor said. "I don't see any reason to hunt them. ... I think it would be a good thing not to hunt them for a year or two."
DNR conservation officer Darin Fagerman said he hears similar comments.
"I hear people complaining to me in the field when I'm checking grouse hunters or at a gas station," he said. "They bring it up: Why are we still having a moose season?"
Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, an avid hunter who chairs a House committee that oversees wildlife, said he plans to hold hearings about the decline of Minnesota's moose in which more than the effects of hunting will be discussed.
"I don't believe the hunter is the villain. There have to be other factors causing it," he said.
Scientists suspect that higher temperatures, parasites, disease, a growing deer population and changes to forests may also be hurting moose.
The DNR has two moose research projects in the works and is carrying out its annual winter aerial population survey. Wildlife research manager Lou Cornicelli said it's going to take time before scientists get a better handle on the decline.