DULUTH, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has asked the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to reconsider plans for an off-reservation moose hunt.
Band leaders are planning to offer the fall hunt to members, and expect to take up to 25 bull moose. a band official says biologists are telling them there's no negative impact on the herd, the Duluth News Tribune reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/13RcqwN ).
"We had a biologist say we would probably take less than what are killed by cars and trucks and trains," said Ferdinand Martineau, secretary-treasurer of the band. "We wondered, would we have a negative impact on the herd, and they're saying, no, we wouldn't."
But DNR wildlife program manager Steve Merchant said the state's moose population has declined severely in recent years, making the hunt a bad idea.
"We believe the precipitous decline we've seen in the moose population is to the point we can't afford to lose any more moose, that it's a conservation issue in continuing to hunt them," Merchant said. "That's why we asked them to reconsider their decision."
The DNR's ability to stop the hunt is limited although Merchant says a lawsuit is an option. DNR Commissioner has met with Fond du Lac Band President Karen Diver on the issue. The state canceled its moose hunt last fall, and said it will not consider future hunts until the population recovers.
The band's secretary-treasurer says moose meat is a staple for the diets of many band members, along with maple syrup, wild rice and walleyes netted on Mille Lacs Lake. He said the most recent wild rice and syrup harvests were poor, and the late ice-out on Mille Lacs cut off access to the fish.
"That was another big chunk of protein taken out of our diet," Martineau said. "We look at the subsistence part of it ... how does it affect our band members?"
Minnesota's moose population has been in decline since at least 2006, when an estimated 8,800 moose roamed the northeastern part of the state. The population saw a 35 percent drop in numbers from 2012 to 2013 — from 4,320 down to 2,760 animals.
The band plans to offer 77 permits to harvest a maximum of 25 bull moose in ceded territory covered by 1854 and 1837 treaties. The season opens Sept. 21 and closes Dec. 31, or when the 25-animal limit is reached.