Attention MN deer hunters: March 13th is the deadline for telling our MDNR what you think about its plan to reduce deer numbers in NE Minnesota in an attempt to stop the current decline of moose in that region.
Our whitetails are being blamed for this decline because they are not affected by brain worms and are thus considered “carriers” of brain worms that are known to kill moose (not all of them). Brain worms have been passed back and forth between whitetails and moose via certain slugs and snails throughout the highs and lows of moose populations in recent decades and likely ever since moose migrated from Asia to North America 13,500 years ago. Moose researchers almost everywhere in North America today believe the current continent-wide decline of moose has multiple causes, including other parasites such as liver flukes and winter ticks, poor health related to insufficient moose habitat, climate change and wolf depredation. Underneath it all, especially following climate change, moose may simply be poorly adapted to living in North America today. Actually, the long-protected, increasingly-abundant gray wolves of northeastern Minnesota (now at a historic high just across the border in Ontario) kill more moose than anything else. Logically, our overabundant wolves have much if not most to do with low and declining numbers of remaining deer (which are unaffected by brain worms) and moose in the Arrowhead Region. No one disputes the fact that when and where wolf numbers are high, numbers of their primary prey, deer and moose, can be expected to be low and when wolf numbers are low, numbers of their primary prey can be expected to be high. Hunting by humans has had little effect in this region, as few as one deer taken per ten square-miles in recent years.
What our declining moose need most today is a drastic reduction of Minnesota wolves (seemingly impossible under current circumstances), an increase in numbers of easier-to-catch deer to reduce moose depredation by wolves and more improved moose habitat (including more of what moose eat to survive winters such as second-growth quaking aspens), long scarce in and around the heart of Minnesota’s Moose Management Area, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Our DNR plans to reduce numbers of whitetails in northeastern Minnesota’s Moose Management area (almost all of Arrowhead Region east of a line from Duluth to International Falls), to reduce the passage of the larval form of brain worms from deer to moose. Deer numbers in this region have never recovered from massive losses due to severe winters in the 1960s, after wolves became protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1972, and recent severe winters have reduced deer numbers there again, an estimated 2–4 deer per square-mile now not uncommon in this region according to recent DNR surveys. Logically, this has forced wolves to increase their dependence on moose meat.
If deer numbers are further reduced in this region, the grey wolves will become almost wholly dependent on moose meat, exacerbating the moose decline. Our DNR’s plan will not only adversely affect moose and deer numbers in what was once one of Minnesota’s finest whitetail hunting regions, but adversely affect wolves as well, likely forcing them to migrate south into urban and farm regions in search of food throughout Minnesota and east into Wisconsin and Upper Michigan as well, which is already happening. Our DNR is asking for public input on this moose plan. Please inform our DNR you do not approve of it before the deadline of March 13th. Your input can have great influence on the outcome. Call 651-296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR, send an email to email@example.com or write to DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4040. Please do it today!
Dr. Ken Nordberg