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Deer bringing death to Minnesota's moose

Josephine Marcotty, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Outdoors

With brainworm, moose often develop a characteristic head tilt, and the infected moose are often the ones seen wandering aimlessly where they shouldn't be -- like roads.

"You can't have moose and whitetails together," said Margo Pybus, an expert on deer parasites at the Fish & Wildlife Division in Alberta, Canada. "Unless we want to wait 60,000 years until moose get the parasite relationship figured out."

Biologists say there are solutions, but at this point few are workable. Forest fires, once a natural process, used to provide moose with better food and habitat while suppressing all kinds of parasites. But today, big fires put people and property at risk. Lowering the wolf population might reduce predation on calves, but wolves kill far more deer than moose; and as long as they are protected as a threatened species, killing them is not permitted.

That leaves hunting.

"If I were king of the world," said Moore of the Grand Portage Band, "I would aggressively hunt deer to the point where the population declines."

But he gets resistance to that, he said, and so does the DNR.

"I have tribal members who are furious with me for trying to manage the deer population," Moore said.

This year for the first time the DNR took steps to manage deer with moose in mind. Deer hunting "permit areas" in the far northeast corner of the state have been reconfigured to more clearly designate moose regions and reduce deer numbers there relative to other parts of the state.

But biologists argue that the state could do more for the sake of the moose.

For instance, the deer population goals around the perimeter of moose country are considerably higher than inside, and deer are known to migrate for many miles. And within the deer permit area around Grand Marais and up to Canada, current hunting rules are designed to increase deer numbers slightly.

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