Sunday, February 10, 2013

No Bull About It


On the morning of my 29th birthday I stepped outside onto the raised front porch of a cabin near Kenai, Alaska with my cup of coffee only to come eye to eye with a Moose.  She was huge, majestic  and clearly the dominant animal.  And she had a calf with her.  I watched them for a while, coming in and out of the treeline until they disappeared into the fog.  What I remember most from this encounter is the air of dignity that surrounded these long and lumbering creatures, the possessors of old souls.  

The state of Minnesota announced this week that for the first time in the State's history low numbers mean there will be no moose hunting season.  This comes after a six year decline in the state's moose population from over 8000 to just above 2000, a seventy percent decrease.  Worse than that, researchers are unable to identify a cause for the decline.  While climate change, hunting, and disease are likely culprits, there is no definitive evidence for a causal relationship between any of these factors and the observed decrease in the population.  

Moose, like other large, dominant species, are facing urban encroachment, declining water and air quality, weather changes, and a healthy hunting community, in the form of both humans and wolves.  They are also dependent on healthy, mature forests for their winter survival, the kinds of forests that are disappearing more and more rapidly as we increase our demand for build-able land and construction resources.  It is important to pay attention to the decline of a species that stands over seven feet tall and can weigh up to 1300 pounds because as go those large species, so goes the rest of us.  The decline of the moose is a good warning to us that there is no species that is too big to fail.  Including us.  

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