Grand Rapids, Minn. – It was unfortunate for the moose, struck
and killed by a motorist east of Eveleth last week.
But for those hunters who hold the 225 moose-hunting permits in
the state this year, it could be a positive indication that – on
the eve of this year’s season – moose are on the move in
anticipation of the rut.
“I would imagine this week, with this weather, it will crank up
and those bulls will start moving,” said Tom Rusch, DNR area
wildlife manager in Tower.
The season runs Oct. 3-18. The 225 permits available is the
lowest number since 2003, when 217 were offered.
Hunters can shoot only bulls this year. It’s the third year in a
row that stipulation has been in place.
“We were not taking enough cows to really make a difference (in
the population), but we felt that considering the status of the
population and the direction it was going, that it was prudent to
stop taking cows,” said Mark Lenarz, group leader at the DNR forest
wildlife and populations research group.
There has been concern about the moose population in the
northeast part of the state, where’s it’s been declining. So far,
researchers have been unable to pinpoint a reason for the
But it’s likely that lower moose numbers are related to lower
success rates among hunters, Lenarz said.
Hunter success rates were higher than 80 percent in the early to
mid-1990s. They were mostly in the 70s through 2002 and have
continued to fall. In 2007, half of the hunters were successful; 45
percent shot a moose last year.
“We think it is related to the declining moose population – that
hunters simply cannot find the moose anymore,” Lenarz said, adding
he expects it to continue to decline.
Hunters who spend time scouting before the season opens have the
most success, Rusch said.
This year’s outlook
The bulk of the moose harvest takes place during the first three
or four days of the season, though some hunters stay at it for all
16 days, Lenarz said.
What hunters encounter on opening day has a lot to do with the
weather, he said.
“With the record-setting temperatures we had in most of
September, if we have something like that then I suspect it will be
a little more difficult to find moose and certainly more difficult
to handle the carcass and get it out without spoiling,” Lenarz
Temperatures in the northeast were dropping earlier this
“I’m glad to see some cooler weather,” Rusch said. “Moose and 80
degrees do not go together well.”
Moose aren’t especially active during the daytime when the
temperature is that high, and Rusch heard from some of this
season’s hunters that they didn’t see many moose.
Still, he expects a season like last year, when hunters killed
“We’ve got a few less tags, but overall it is going to be a lot
like the last few years, weather-dependent,” Rusch said. “The guys
who put the most time in scouting are going to see the most
For the third consecutive year, the DNR will collect and test
samples from moose that state and tribal hunters kill. During the
mandatory training sessions, each hunter was given sampling kits
and asked to return them.
Participation isn’t mandatory, but most hunters have submitted
samples, according to Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health
Testing so far has shown that moose in the northeast are being
exposed to a variety of diseases.
“We are finding them exposed to some diseases we didn’t expect
were there,” Carstensen said. “What that means for the population,
we don’t know yet.”
After this year’s collections, officials will analyze the
results more fully. The idea is that moose killed by hunters are
“healthy” moose, so looking at the diseases those animals are
exposed to will give the DNR baseline information about what
diseases are normal for moose in the northeast, she said.
“That helps us understand what’s going on when we find the sick
ones,” Carstensen said.