Climate change affects big game

Published 10:43 am Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where have all the moose gone?

A lot of people are asking that exact question. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has had to cancel the annual moose hunt (lottery permit drawing for four hunters in a party) this fall for the first time in 30 years!

Who doesn’t remember seeing their first moose? Big game has long symbolized America’s rich natural heritage and its recovery, funded in large part by sporting licenses, is one of our shared conservation success stories.

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America’s sporting community has invested millions of dollars over the years to restore wildlife refuges and nature and hunting preserves. In 2011 alone, over 12 million hunters spent more than $16 billion on big game hunting. Hunters and anglers have gladly paid special taxes on gear and licenses to support restoration, seeing it as an investment in our shared outdoor heritage.

In 2008, Minnesota voters voted to raise the sale tax to dedicate a portion of those new revenues to habitat, conservation, clean water, parks, trails and more! We invest millions of federal and state dollars into our out of doors to maintain the quality of life that is a big reason many of us live in Minnesota. Meanwhile the earth is warming, and we are losing ground in terms of quality habitat — both land and water — to maintain and expand the natural resources we need to live our lives in this state.

As a sportsman, an outdoors person, and a person concerned about the future of our planet, I was moved by a recent report release by the National Wildlife Federation on the warming world and the impact of those changing conditions as they relate to our moose, white-tailed deer, black bear and other big game species across the country.

But climate change is threatening to rewrite that success story, cautions a new National Wildlife Federation Report, “Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World.” Warming temperatures fueled by industrial carbon pollution are leading to more droughts, wildfires and extreme weather events, disrupting habitats from coast to coast. And it’s not just wildlife being targeted: With warmer temperatures and fewer hard freezes, hunters are being exposed to more Lyme disease as deer ticks, the carriers of the disease, expand their range.

This report is yet one more of a long line confirming the unwelcomed consequences of climate change. The National Wildlife Federation lays out the solutions, from curbing carbon emissions to restoring natural carbon sinks. I urge readers to read the 32-page report online at

We can and must do more in terms of protecting our great out of doors for the big game animals, the migratory birds, the fish in the lakes and rivers, and for human animals, as well!


Gary Botzek
Minnesota Conservation Federation

St. Paul