Moose Tails in Itasca County

10.2.2022 [archived ~ previously published 11.3.2016]

The rumors you have heard are true, there are moose thriving in Northern Itasca County.  Over the past several years, periodic sightings have been reported, and in late September 2016, a photograph posted online shows three gangly moose dancing their way across Hwy 6 north of Deer River.

It has been said by the people that settled here in the last quarter of the 19th century that there were more moose than deer at that time.  The MN DNR website explains the decline “…mature forests could support only a limited number of moose. During the early 1900s most of the moose range was logged and much of it was burned from fires that often started in the leftover slash from logging.  The change in habitat – removing the overhead canopy of large trees allowed shorter and smaller shrubs and trees to grow – helped the white-tail deer population to increase dramatically but created poor habitat for moose and their numbers declined.”

There were no designated regions for hunting, but the new game laws in 1901 included the following for large game: “Deer, Nov. 10 to Nov. 30; male moose or male caribou, Nov. 15 to Nov. 20. Each hunter is allowed to kill three deer, one moose and one caribou. The sale or shipment by common or private carrier is made unlawful.” [Itasca News 4-20-1901]

Following the first season of the limit regulations, a lumber company in the county was believed to be well over the legal limit

Moose Meat Seized ~ Itasca News 1-22-1902

“Executive Agent Fullerton of the state game and fish commission believes that the killing of game out of season by actual settlers and for food is not a violation of the spirit of the Minnesota laws.  He is determined, however, that the large lumber companies operating in the northern part of the state shall not try to furnish fresh meat for their camps by the wholesale slaughter of game.  A telegram was received recently from Deputy Warden J.F. McCormack of Grand Rapids telling of the seizure of nineteen quarters of moose at the camp of the Al Powers Lumber company and the arrest of the foreman.  Another telegram was received later telling of the seizure of five moose carcasses at the same camp and the arrest of four men.  The case will be prosecuted vigorously.  The law provides a penalty of from $100 to $300 for each animal killed or held untagged out of season.”

The homesteaders in the mature forests of the Big Fork Valley were always pleased when they got a moose, especially so if they didn’t have to spend a long day in the woods.  “John Larson shot a moose from his door step last Thursday afternoon and as John is doing some logging this winter fresh meat homes in rather handy.” [Bigfork Settler 11-23-1905] * I checked the 1905 calendar and verified that this moose was shot on November 16th…during the identified season!

It seems that most everyone is amazed by the large animals. “Monday morning a big moose visited our town and after taking a few observations he leisurely walked down to the river right in the busiest part of town and swam across while a number of our citizens stood on the bank and watched him, but the monarch of the forest, though not in any hurry to leave, seemed to think his place was to the woods, so her finally walked off.  The animal appeared so contented that not a soul in town expressed any desire to harm him.” [Bigfork Settler 8-15-1907]

Although moose were seldom seen in Minnesota after logging and forest fires, the hunting season continued until 1922 when hunters harvested 219 moose. The moose season was suspended in 1923, when the population was estimated at 3,000 animals.  I have seen moose up in Isle Royale and they are magnificent creatures.  It is easy to understand why after the decline seeing a moose was newsworthy, like these stories.

Saw Bull Moose ~ Itasca News 6-20-1929

“While driving across the bog on Highway No. 61 last Friday morning about 7:45, at a point 13 miles north of Deer River, H.F. Betsinger, Rev. J.W. Schenck and the News editor saw a big bull moose grazing near the highway.  At the approach of the car Mr. Moose lumbered into and across the ditch and disappeared, but not until the travelers had had a fine view of him.”

New Moose Stories, Now You Tell One! ~ Itasca News 6-27-1929

“Last week we gave our readers a story of personally seeing a large bull moose on Highway No. 61 about 12 miles north of here.  Our story was vouched for by a Methodist clergyman and another.

It was almost a fatal step.  Our reputation for veracity suffered a serious blow.  We may have to begin going to Sunday School again to restore it.  We are very certain it was a moose, but our friends appear to think it was mostly the other.

Now we have been eclipsed entirely.  TWO moose stories developed yesterday that makes ours go way back and sit down.  Here they are:

About 1:30 yesterday afternoon Lowell Ruby was driving across the bog and a short distance beyond the Divide sign came upon a cow moose on the highway.  Lowell avers he had a hard time avoiding striking the animal and brought his car to a stop within seven feet and four inches of her.  So loath was the animal to leave the highway that they had to get out and throw rocks at her.  Four other cars had pulled up before she disappeared.

But as Al Jolson would say, “You aint heard nothin’ yet!”

Last night Ted Matheson and Verl Kinder drove out to Bowstring Lodge to go swimming.  And just north of the same Divide sign, right on the highway, about 7:30 o’clock, were a cow moose AND TWO CALVES!

Really, it’s time to call a halt!  If this thing keeps up folks will cease to believe us!  That bull moose story has started something, but if it gathers any more momentum, we’ll have to join the wets at International Falls and yell “For God’s sake, help us!”

We believe these stories, have no occasion to doubt them.  But anything in the future will have to be supported by an actual photograph or go into our editorial waste basket.  And we hereby offer a fancy price for that picture.

All these facts go to show how much more valuable the moose or deer is alive than dead.  Put up your gun and permit them to increase.   They are the sight of a lifetime to the tourists who come up from the south of us.”

Isn’t that the truth!  I hope to see a moose in my travels soon.

**Moose Madness Family Festival, Oct. 21 & 22, 2022

The Moose is Loose in Grand Marais during the annual Moose Madness Family Festival! This event is the ultimate family-focused celebration of all things moose. Enjoy the outdoors and learn a few facts about our celebrated mascot along the way with activities, scavenger hunts, quizzes, dance challenges and more. []

1 Comment

  1. Vickie says:

    I’m glad to hear that the moose are doing well. I know for a while they were having issues.


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