The National Park Service is not currently considering a managed moose hunt, according to a 2018 report, due to the difficulty related to logistics, increased staffing requirements, removal of carcasses from the landscape, and the impacts to wilderness character.
A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers argue a limited hunt is the best way to control an “exploding population” of moose at Isle Royale National Park.
A House resolution introduced in September argues an out-of-control moose population is creating an “ecological dilemma” as they feed on the park’s vegetation. A diminishing population of wolves, the only natural predator on the island, is failing to contain the moose population in recent years, according to a study by Michigan Technological University.
“Unfortunately, the wolf population is in decline and the moose population is just getting out of hand,” said state Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland. “As a result, you’re going to see the vegetation there is really going to take a hit pretty hard. There needs to be proper management of that moose population, and as we’ve seen in some other national parks, hunting is really a good way to do that.”
Isley Royale is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which would need to sign off on the creation of a moose tag lottery hunt sought by the resolution. Hunting is allowed in some national parks already.
The National Park Service is not currently considering a managed moose hunt, according to a 2018 report, due to the difficulty related to logistics, increased staffing requirements, removal of carcasses from the landscape, and the impacts to wilderness character. Hunting and managed culling of animal populations was dismissed from further consideration.
Johnson said a moose tag lottery would offer a one-of-a-kind hunting experience, bring more economic activity to the Park Service and the Upper Peninsula, and solve ecological issues on the island. Moose have been a protected species in Michigan since 1889.
“We think that there’s a very apt solution to doing this that quite frankly, everyone benefits (from),” Johnson said.
Isle Royale National Park is the largest wilderness area in Michigan and is largely untouched by civilization. It is illegal to feed, touch or intentionally disturb wildlife within the park boundary.
The Park Service indicated a pressing need to do something about the declining wolf population, according to the 2018 report, raising concerns about possible effects to the Isle Royale ecosystem, including effects to both the moose population and vegetation.
A continued increase in the moose population could lead to a decrease in nutrition and even large-scale starvation, according to the report.
The Michigan Tech study notes that moose are one of the main reasons the island experienced a 75% decline in the number of mature fir trees since 1846.
The resolution is also sponsored by and state Reps. Gregory Markkanen, R-Houghton; David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids; and John Chirkun, D-Roseville. It was introduced on Sept. 11 and referred to the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee.
Johnson said he hasn’t solicited input from the DNR, but stakeholders and experts would be called in during the committee process.
If passed, copies of the resolution would be forwarded to the director of the Park Service, members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, the director of the Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“They could just throw in the trash, but I would hope that they would examine it and say ‘let’s look at this as a legitimate solution,’” Johnson said.