Bois Forte opts against 2014 moose hunting; no decision from DNR yet
St. Paul — Despite aerial surveys that produced a moose-population estimate in the northeastern part of the state that was similar to 2012, it remains unclear whether the animals will be hunted this fall.
Last year, neither the state nor the three Indian bands in the northeast held seasons, decisions that came after aerial surveys resulted in an estimated moose population of 2,760 animals.
While the population estimate rose to 4,350 this year, officials don’t believe that reflects an increasing moose population. More likely, they say, was the population was undercounted last year.
But at this point, the DNR isn’t ready to say a season won’t be held.
DNR Wildlife Section Chief Paul Telander said the agency has met with the bands at the biological level, but consultations at the government level are ongoing.
“We won’t be making any decisions until the consultation with the bands is complete,” Telander said.
One of the three bands – the Bois Forte band – announced last week it wouldn’t hold a moose hunt this fall. However, it’s not clear if that applies only to the band’s reservation, or to the 1854 Treaty area as a whole.
Bois Forte officials didn’t return calls for comment earlier this week.
According to an Associated Press story, the Bois Forte Tribal Council decided not to hold a season after consulting with tribal elders. In that report, Tribal Chairman Kevin Leecy said the tribe wants to be careful until the causes of the long-term decline in the moose population are better understood.
Officials with both the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa say their bands haven’t made decisions yet on whether to hunt moose this fall.
In 2012, state hunters killed 46 moose, while tribal hunters from all three bands killed 36. State hunters killed 53 moose in 2011, while tribal hunters killed 31.
Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager in Grand Rapids, said officials would like to see multiple years of an increasing moose population estimate.
“When we closed the season last year, it was to be conservative and do what we saw as the right thing with this declining population,” he said. “None of that has really changed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report