Minnesota’s 2012 moose season opens Saturday in zones across Northeastern Minnesota. A total of 87 licenses were available by lottery for this year’s hunt, down from 105 last year and 213 the year before. Up to four hunters may hunt on a single license, but together they may take only one bull moose.
Minnesota’s moose population has been declining steadily over the past seven years. This past winter’s aerial survey found moose numbers down nearly 14 percent from 2011, continuing a trend in decreasing population that began in 2005.
The winter survey indicated the moose population dropped from about 4,900 animals in 2011 to about 4,230 this year. The population was estimated at about 8,000 in 2005 and biologists have called it “very disturbing” that the population has been cut in half in just eight years.
Moose experts say the limited, bulls-only hunt won’t affect the overall population. But they say the season could be closed in future years if there is a continued decline in moose numbers — especially the bull-to-cow ratio — or in hunter success to below 30 percent overall.
Researchers say they still don’t know why the animals are declining so fast.
Minnesota’s moose hunt will continue through Oct. 14. Hunters are expected to kill about 50 bull moose.
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is holding a moose season that began Sept. 22. So far Fond du Lac hunters have registered six moose with Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle, Sue Chalstrom said Friday.