What’s the future of moose management in Minnesota?

I’ve covered the Minnesota Legislature for about 10 years. I don’t recall a session during which lawmakers didn’t pass a game and fish policy bill. These bills typically aren’t super-controversial – though they can be – and tend to contain the most provisions important to hunters and anglers.

It looks like 2015 will be the first session in years without a game and fish bill passing. Some lawmakers say the reason is there wasn’t time to fully vet many of the issues in the bill. Not sure I buy that, given a session that’s longer than four months.

Others say the reason there won’t be a game and fish bill is due to concerns that people who oppose wolf hunting and trapping will use the bill as a vehicle to advance their agenda. If that’s the case – and I’m fairly confident it is – that’s frightening. The same concern has been around since the state started a season for wolves, but the Legislature always has passed a game and fish bill. There’s simply been enough votes to prevent amendments that would ban wolf hunting and trapping. Is that no longer the case?

Which brings me to Gov. Mark Dayton’s decision to end moose collaring in the state. During two years of field work, the calf portion of the DNR’s moose-collaring study showed a large amount of wolf predation on calves. Among people who support Dayton’s decision, one of their main points seems to be that the research already has showed wolves are killing a bunch of moose. The logical next step, then, would be to control wolf numbers, which, presumably, would help moose.

While I think there probably is a much wider variety of factors at play in the moose decline, I don’t disagree with the logic. If wolves are killing a lot of moose, then isn’t that something we can control, to some extent? Can’t we just remove a bunch of wolves?

Which brings me back to the game and fish bill. If we can’t even pass one because we fear those who oppose wolf hunting and trapping, then how in the world can we expect to ever have a wolf-control program to help moose?

Even the notion of killing wolves to help moose would create an absolute circus. Among all the emotions surrounding the issue, the anti’s and undecided folks would demand concrete data that show the extent to which wolves kill moose. They’ll want incontrovertible proof of the role wolves are playing in the moose decline.

You think two years of data will be sufficient? Not a chance.

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