A January aerial survey of moose in northeastern Minnesota shows the population is low but stable for the seventh year, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Surveyors estimated there are 3,030 moose in that area, which is statistically unchanged from the 3,710 counted last year. The department said in a statement that it is 90 percent certain that the population is between 2,320 and 4,140 moose. This year’s count is about 65 percent lower than the peak estimate of 8,840 moose in 2006.

“It is a challenge to maintain a high number of adult females that can become pregnant, produce calves and rear them to one year of age,” DNR moose and deer project leader Glenn DelGiudice said.

DNR investigations show that wolf predation accounts for about two-thirds of calf mortality. Parasites that deer carry into the woods have emerged as the leading cause of death for moose.

Pam Louwagie

Walker

No vehicle restrictions for Eelpout Festival

After meeting with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, organizers of Walker’s International Eelpout Festival announced there will be no driving restrictions on Walker Bay for the event, scheduled for Thursday through Sunday.

In past years, law enforcement had limited the number of trucks and RVs on the water because of thin ice and unseasonably warm weather.

With thousands expected to participate, organizers are requiring icehouses, campers and other structures to be set a minimum of 15 feet apart. The event, in its 39th year, is a tongue-in-cheek extravaganza celebrating a slimy bottom-feeding fish.

The festival was started on Walker Bay on Leech Lake in 1979 as a way to boost tourism. It includes ice fishing, an eelpout fish fry, eelpout rugby, eelpout curling and a polar plunge. The event now routinely brings in more than 10,000 visitors, and organizers say it means more than $1 million to the local economy.

Mark Brunswick

Red Wing

Public forum will be held over graffiti on Barn Bluff

The Red Wing City Council learned recently that it lacks the legal authority to call a referendum on whether it should allow graffiti on Barn Bluff, the giant promontory overlooking town and the Mississippi River. The bluff has served as a public bulletin board since the late 1950s.

The council has been debating its policy of ignoring graffiti on the bluff — which violates a city ordinance — unless it receives a complaint or in cases where the content has a political or obscene message. Unable to reach a consensus, it asked city staff at a recent workshop whether the question could be put to the voters.

The city attorney said no, according to Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann. She told the council last week that neither state law nor the city charter allows a referendum on political questions. However, Kuhlmann said the city will hold a public forum on the issue at a future date.

Dan Browning