Grand Portage, Bois Forte bands seeking to take moose this fall

Two Minnesota Chippewa tribes have asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to allow them to harvest moose this fall, DNR officials said Wednesday.

Bull Moose - Photo courtesy of DNR

Two Minnesota Chippewa tribes have asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to allow them to harvest moose this fall, DNR officials said Wednesday.

Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations manager, said that the DNR has been in discussion with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, and that a decision on whether to allow their taking of moose for subsistence or cultural purposes could be reached as soon as Thursday.

Merchant didn’t specify the number of moose the bands might be allowed to take.

“Initially, we didn’t see eye-to-eye on that,” he said.

Under an agreement between those bands and the state, they may not hold hunting seasons for a species unless the state is holding a hunt for that species, too. The DNR has not authorized a state moose season since 2012 over concerns for a decreasing moose population. The state is not holding a moose season this fall.


Discussions with the bands have revolved around the number of moose that the bands could take and under what provisions, Merchant said.

“We’re trying to figure a way we can help them sustain their cultural heritage of harvesting moose, but we can’t allow them to have a moose hunting season because of the agreement (between the state and the bands),” Merchant said. “One potential way to allow them to do that is to allow them a scientific and educational permit to take some moose. That’s what’s going on.”

The Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands are paid $1.6 million each by the state annually under the agreement, for which they agree to give up some of their treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands ceded to the U.S. under an 1854 treaty. The bands’ hunting and fishing seasons are conducted under a hunting framework administered by the 1854 Treaty Authority based in Duluth.

Members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa took 25 bull moose this fall under the band’s hunting season structure. The Fond du Lac Band is not a party to the 1854 Treaty Authority and does not receive payments from the state in return for restricting its hunting and gathering rights. As such, it may hold seasons for a wildlife species whether the state of Minnesota holds a season or not.

Minnesota's moose population has dropped from an estimated 8,840 in 2006 to about 4,000 currently, according to annual aerial surveys.

Seth Moore, director of biology and environment for the Grand Portage band, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the 2013-15 moose hunting hiatus stemmed from sociological concern at a time when uncertainty surrounded a plunge in the state’s moose population.

Moore now says the cultural importance of a subsistence moose hunt overrides public sensitivities. That’s because game managers now believe the state’s moose population has stabilized, adult moose mortality is low and calf survival is “reasonable,” Moore said.

“We’ve been sacrificing the hunt for the benefit of the moose population, but it doesn’t have a population effect," he told the Star Tribune.


Continuing to cancel fall moose hunts would do more harm than good, Moore said, because it puts undue focus on a cause of moose mortality that doesn’t detract from the overall population.

A call to the 1854 Treaty Authority was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune contributed to this report.

Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at or find his Facebook page at
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