Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
Every year since 1960, the Minnesota DNR has been sending helicopters to count moose.
For the last few years, the count has been down.
"Population–wise, there's been a decline for the past five years or so. It's been a decline every year in the aerial survey that's done by the DNR." said Ron Moen, moose researcher with NRRI in Duluth.
The numbers from this year's survey are deceiving on the surface.
The 2014 survey counted about 4,300 moose; up from 2013's 2700.
But, statisticians say that number is statistically insignificant for a few thousand animals scattered over several thousand square miles.
Izaak Walton League national director Dave Zentner feels several factors are keeping moose numbers low.
One is competition with deer.
Moose and deer both love freshly logged forest.
Zentner says those areas should be replanted with moose friendly trees.
"If you use the right mix of regeneration trees for example balsam, you're going to favor moose versus deer."
Zentner states moose also get parasites from close proximity to deer.
This long cold winter may help minimize that risk.
"In terms of the tick infestation and other problems they have, colder is better than warmer so this might be a winter with some relief and that would be an encouraging thing."
Also encouraging to the Izaak Walton League is the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa's decision to cancel their 2014 moose hunt.
The League is not an anti–hunting organization but feels Minnesota's moose herd could use the break to increase their numbers.
"The Izaak Walton League and many others are heavily involved in trying to do whatever we can to give this animal a break so this iconic animal is with us permanently whether we hunt them or not." said Zentner.
In Duluth for Nature Matters, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.
Minnesota's aerial moose survey indicated around 8,800 of the animals in 2006.
That means the population has declined nearly 50 percent is the last eight years.