After this winter’s moose survey, wildlife biologists said the western Upper Peninsula moose population is growing at a long-term average of about 2 percent each year, with an estimated 509 animals living in that part of the state.
Michigan Natural Resources Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason reported the survey results Thursday to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission at a regular NRC meeting at the Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire.
“The growth rate for this moose population is low, but remains positive,” Mason said. “Moose are continuing to maintain a foothold in the western Upper Peninsula, continuing to further extend the lineage of a population airlifted to the area from Canada in the mid-1980s.”
The western U.P. moose range covers about 1,400 square miles in parts of Marquette, Baraga, and Iron counties. The eastern U.P. population of moose is not surveyed but is estimated to be fewer than 100 moose. This population includes animals living within the Seney National Wildlife Refuge and Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
The aerial survey was completed in early February. Moose surveys are conducted every other winter by the DNR, with gray wolf surveys taking place during the interim winters.
“Overall, flying conditions were difficult, with flights cancelled on 23 days, primarily because of snow and high winds,” said Brad Johnson, a DNR wildlife technician who coordinates the survey. “On the days we could fly, conditions were good; snow covered most of the stumps and down logs and we had some snow on the conifers for most of the survey, all of which aided our efforts.”
Winter weather conditions preventing some survey flights did not allow wildlife staffers to complete the winter 2017 moose survey. This precluded the DNR from estimating moose abundance throughout the entirety of the western U.P. moose range.
However, an estimate was calculated for the core range, which in the past has supported 80-90 percent of the population. The moose estimate was 378 animals in that western U.P. core area.
Researchers think that if the survey had been completed, it would have yielded a total western U.P. moose population estimate of between 420 and 470 animals.
With the Moose Hunting Advisory Council’s recommendation to only allow hunting if a growth rate of greater 3 percent is maintained, the DNR is not recommending implementing a harvest at this time.
The same was true over the past several years.
For more information on moose in Michigan, visit www.Michigan.gov/Moose.