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Annual survey begins

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Recent snowfall in northeastern Minnesota has allowed for the start of the 2012 aerial moose survey, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

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The annual survey, which has been conducted every year since 1960, provides critical data needed to determine the size of the moose population and to set the number of moose hunting permits.

Observers from the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division, the 1854 Treaty Authority, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa gathered in Ely to begin the survey, which is expected to last two to three weeks, depending on the weather.

Forty-nine survey plots randomly scattered across the survey area will be flown. This includes the addition of nine specially selected "habitat" plots that will be studied to determine how moose respond to recent wildfires, prescribed burns and timber management. Survey plots measure approximately three miles wide by five miles long.

"We are glad to see the snow and get the survey started," said Tower Area Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch. "We plan to fly two aircraft and survey up to eight plots per day. We're flying over some of the most rugged areas of the state during these surveys, so safety and weather conditions are always a concern for our crews."

Until recently, only two to four inches of snow covered the ground in some of the western portion of the survey area, which caused a three-week delay. Snow cover of at least eight inches is needed to cover rock outcroppings and allow field observers to identify moose in heavy cover.

Once all of the plots have been flown, the data will be analyzed to estimate the total number of moose in the area, the level of reproduction and the ratio of adult bull and cow moose. Data from the survey will be used in the process to set permit numbers for the 2012 hunting season.

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