More moose sightings outside usual northeast range
Duluth, Minn. – More moose are being sighted outside of the
Boundary Waters Canoe Area and other parts of their traditional
range in northeastern Minnesota as citizens respond to a plea for
help tracking the animals, but scientists disagree on the
significance of the reports.
More than 500 moose have been reported and more than 440
locations mapped in the 11 months since the University of Minnesota
Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute asked the public to
report moose sightings, the Duluth News Tribune reported Monday.
The reports are backed up by more than 200 photographs.
“If we can get this many reports in just 11 months, in so many
places we really didn’t expect people to see many moose, we
probably have more than we think,” said Ron Moen, a wildlife
researcher with the NRRI.
Moen noted 40 percent of the reports have come from outside the
area where the Minnesota DNR looks for moose during its periodic
“These reports don’t replace (scientific research), but they can
help fill in some gaps and offer some new ideas on what we need to
do next,” he said.
The DNR broadly estimates there are about 6,000 moose in its
core survey area in Cook, Lake and northeastern St. Louis counties.
But the newspaper reported that no one knows if moose are hanging
on, expanding or declining west of their traditional range because
they aren’t counted there.
“Minnesota’s moose population clearly is larger than the number
of moose reported from the annual survey area,” Moen said. “We
really don’t know how much larger.”
A contrary view comes from Mark Lenarz, who heads the DNR’s
Forest Wildlife Populations and Research Group. He said the public
reports are interesting but of little statistical value.
“If people see a moose in the Boundary Waters, it’s something
they expect to see, it’s not something they would feel compelled to
report, so we probably won’t get as many reports from there as you
might expect,” he said. “On the other hand, there are so few moose
in the northwest now that people are going to be more likely to
report it. So any comparison likely isn’t very realistic.”
And Lenarz said there have long been pockets of moose outside of
their usual range.
Still, Moen is intrigued by the dozens of moose sightings in
Koochiching, Itasca, northern Aitkin and western St. Louis counties
of northeastern and north-central Minnesota.
While northeastern Minnesota’s moose have been gradually
declining, the moose population crashed in northwestern
Yet about 11 percent of all moose reported by the public have
come from northwestern Minnesota. A combination of factors, likely
spurred by rising temperatures over the past 25 years, reduced that
area’s population from more than 4,000 in the 1980s to about 84
when the DNR last checked in 2007. That population is so small it’s
impossible to conduct a scientific population survey.
But Moen said pockets of moose appear to be hanging on, possibly
even growing, in the northwest.
“This clearly isn’t scientific. But it gives us some indication
that moose are persisting at some level in that area,” Moen said.
“It’s not likely that people are seeing half or even 25 percent of
the moose up there. … That’s 200 animals up there on the low end,
and that’s double what was last estimated.”
Lenarz said the public sightings aren’t enough to determine
what’s happening to northwestern Minnesota moose. But he said the
DNR will go back into the area after five or 10 years and find a
way to see if the remaining population there is hanging on or
“We’ll go back in, not every year, but at some point to see
what’s left up there,” Lenarz said. The public reports “may well be
different people seeing the same moose.”