Friday, February 8, 2013

The sad decline of an iconic animal

It was coming on bedtime Wednesday night when I took my 1-year-old into his room to put on his pajamas. I reached into the closet and pulled out a pair and proceeded to put them on him.

Only then did I pay attention to the moose pattern on his sleeping gear.

Seemed like odd timing, given the announcement by the state DNR earlier in the day that the moose population in northeastern Minnesota had plummeted so much that there would be no hunting season in 2013.

Indeed, the moose population in that part of the state dropped 35 percent from last year, and 52 percent since 2010. The estimated population in 2006 was 8,840. This year’s estimate: 2,760.

It’s apparent that something is – and has been – very wrong there. And that population of moose – in the state’s prime moose habitat – is started to mirror what happened in the northwestern part of the state. Twenty years ago, thousands of animals lived there. Today, the population numbers fewer than 100 animals.

It’s a sad state of affairs and it’s hard to have much optimism that something good is going to happen. The DNR and others have and are devoting huge amounts of effort to try figure out what’s killing moose in the northeast. I hope they can, but it’s hard to be optimistic they can figure it out and turn this ship around.

I can’t help but think we’re witnessing the elimination of one of our state’s most iconic species. While it’s likely moose will persist at some level – like they have in the northwest – it’s hard to imagine a population turnaround that would result in enough animals for a hunting season in the future.

But at this point, that’s not so much what I’m worried about. My concern is that my kids and their kids will grow up having as their only memories of moose those little imprints on their pajamas.

(This post originally appeared on