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Field reports: Another state starts study of moose

CRITTERS – Forty cow moose in northwest North Dakota will be sporting some pricey new neckwear later this winter when the state Game and Fish Department and the University of Mary in Bismarck team up to fit the animals with GPS collars.

It’s all about learning more about prairie moose and where they go, the habitat they prefer and the extent of their mortality. Northwest North Dakota isn’t traditional habitat for the big animals, researchers say, but moose in recent years have been a common sight on the prairie.

North Dakota is the latest of several moose-stronghold states to start major studies of the largest member of the deer family. Notable declines have been detected in some states, including Minnesota.

An apparent increase of moose in western North Dakota has coincided with a dramatic decline in moose populations in more traditional forested areas such as the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Hills, along with northwest and northeast Minnesota.

Northwest North Dakota also lies at the epicenter of the state’s oil boom.

The total cost of the two-year study is about $300,000, and Game and Fish is funding the research with a grant to the university.

Minnesota has committed about $1 million for its research.

Wyoming, Montana and Washington also have launched studies.

The high-tech collars used in North Dakota, which cost about $2,200 each, will provide real-time locations on the moose and are programmed to send a text message if any of the cows stop moving or die.

That’s similar to a study now underway in northeast Minnesota, where moose populations have declined to the point there won’t be a hunting season this fall. The text alerts will help the researchers reach a dead moose faster, before the animal is too badly decayed to determine why it died.

“We’re going to try to mirror a lot of the protocol (in the northeast Minnesota study) so we will have the ability to make some comparisons,” Maskey said. “Because it seems our moose are doing a little better than they are over there.”

Idaho seeks comments on hunting seasons

HUNTING – Idaho hunters might be able to use bait for hunting wolves in some areas and elk hunting season dates may be altered under Fish and Game Department proposals to bring predator-prey relationships into balance.

Open house meetings in this region include:

 • Moscow, Thursday, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Latah County Fairgrounds, 1021 Harold St.

• Coeur d’Alene, Feb. 27, 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Best Western, 506 W. Appleway Ave.  

A complete list of statewide deer, elk, pronghorn, wolf, black bear and mountain lion hunts will be available on the Fish and Game website after Monday.   

While the state already allows year-round hunting on private land in the Panhandle region, a more liberal yearlong wolf season is being recommended throughout the Selway and Lolo zones where once-thriving elk herds are struggling.

Cow elk hunts could be as early as Oct. 1 in Unit 18 to reduce hunter crowding.