The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that a subspecies of moose found in North Dakota and three other states could warrant federal protection. The finding opens a full status review by the USFWS to determine whether moose could be listed under the Endangered Species Act. State Game and Fish Department officials emphasize the finding merely initiates a status review of moose in the Upper Midwest, and it will not affect any current state regulations in the foreseeable future.
The announcement concerns the population of the moose subspecies found only in the Midwest, including Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin in addition to North Dakota.
Jeb Williams, Game and Fish Department wildlife division chief, said the Department will be providing data to show that the state’s moose population has been doing quite well for years.
Williams mentioned if data on North Dakota's moose population had been considered in the petition's finding, it's possible the state's moose population would have been excluded from the process.
“This can be a long and confusing process, but North Dakotans need to understand that nothing will change in the interim and we believe our moose population will continue to do well,” Williams said.
Currently the state’s highest moose densities are found in the northwest, while numbers in what was once considered traditional habitat in the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Hills, remain low. Overall, the statewide population is stable to increasing.
North Dakota held its first moose hunting season in 1977 and 10 licenses were made available to hunters. The season has run uninterrupted since then.
For 2016, the Game and Fish Department allocated 202 moose licenses, up 70 from 2015.
The Department continues to monitor moose that die from causes other than hunting, to determine any effects of disease and to gain a better understanding of why they died.
In addition, a three-year moose research study is ongoing in the Kenmare area and on the Missouri River bottoms southeast of Williston. The research is focusing on annual survival, cause-specific mortality, reproduction rates, annual and season movements and home range use, as well as seasonal habitat selection.