Low Moose Numbers Lead To A Conflict

Mar 24, 2017

Credit Mary Rumsey

Moose numbers are down across Wyoming. Now, a woman who lives in what used to be known as moose country is asking Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department to stop hunting near her Wood River home near Meeteetse. A hunter who has been waiting for decades to hunt moose there disagrees and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is caught in the middle.

The Jackson area has been well known for its moose for a long time. When a big bull moose steps out of the willows, tourists are amazed.

A woman exclaims, “Oh my gosh!”

The Wood River near Meeteetse is also known for its healthy moose population. Mary Rumsey has lived on her place on the Wood River for twenty years and she's seen a lot of moose on her property. She even uses her moose pictures for Christmas cards.  But, one Christmas moose pair will never be seen again. An out of state elk hunter killed them last year.

She said, “He shot our mother moose and her baby. He received a fine, no jail time, and suspended jail time. But it is just ridiculous.”

Rumsey said three other Wood River Moose died since last fall.

She explained, “We had another moose that fell into a trout pond.”

She said one bull was confused by an electric fence and ran out into the road.

She said, “It got run over. Broken spine. Game and fish had to come over and euthanize it.”

Rumsey also thinks recent logging in the Shoshone National Forest and too much road hunting is reducing Moose numbers. 

Rumsey said, “We used to have 15, 20 moose up here.  And, now, I’ve seen one this winter.”

Rumsey’s neighbor blames wolves and bears for the decline.

“I think they're having one of the largest impacts on moose mortality rates that we’re not doing anything about.”

Pierson Hodgens is an outfitter. He said if a client came to him, “In all honesty, we wouldn’t hunt moose in the Wood River. We’d go over to the Greybull, or somewhere else.”

Rumsey has been writing the Game and Fish biologists asking them to cut the number of local area bull moose tags from five to three. She doesn’t have a problem with hunting. She just thinks hunters can help bring the moose numbers back up in the Wood River area, by hunting them elsewhere.

Rumsey brought up her request at a Meeteetse season setting meeting. She argued hard to either cut the number of tags in the hunt area to three or ban hunting on the Shoshone National Forest near the Wood River road.

Rumsey told the group, “In January Bart saw a one year old, two-year-old, and three-year-old boys. A lot of you people are in the cattle business. We’re running out of breeding stock.”

While some others agreed with Rumsey, Marvin Blakesly of Cody did not. He’s been accruing preference points for years.

He explained, “I think 21, 22. Ever since the preference point system came into existence.”

Now he wants to hunt moose, in the exact place Rumsey wants to protect them.

Blakesley said, “Certainly Wood River would be one of my prime places to hunt because there is some access into there that’s non-horseback.”

Blakesley also blamed predators for the moose decline. But Game and Fish biologists told hunters at the meeting numbers dropped all over Wyoming in the last decade, even in places where there are no wolves or grizzlies.

In his Cody office, Wildlife management coordinator Tim Woolley said, “Actually moose populations worldwide have shown declines over the last ten to twenty years. Even in the Scandinavian  countries, they’re studying moose population dynamics trying to understand this.”

Recent Game and Fish flight surveys indicate moose populations in the Meeteetse hunting area have rebounded slightly from a very low count in 2009. Still, they don’t think hunters killing five bulls there would harm the population.

Woolley said bulls move across large areas, and pointed to the hunter who has waited, like Blakesley.

Woolley explained, “And if we did cut that off, that person would lose that opportunity. But, I could not defend biologically because, on the population as a whole, that shouldn’t impact it.           

Wyoming’s Game and Fish Commission makes the final decision on the number of moose licenses allowed in any area. Rumsey said she’ll go to Casper to talk to the Commission April 20th.