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The new moose habitat plates are available at county deputy registrar offices in Minnesota. For more information, go to callofthemoose.com. Image courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota moose get license plate, new funding

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By John Myers / Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota’s dwindling moose herd will now get its own license plate and a new source of money for research into why their numbers are declining so rapidly.

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Monday unveiled a new moose-themed conservation license plate to join the state’s lineup of other nature-themed designs.

The Critical Habitat license plates require an extra $30 donation above the normal license plate fee that driver’s pay each year, with the proceeds going to buy conservation land in the state.

The new moose plate displays a never-before-published painting by the late Les Kouba, famed Minnesota wildlife artist. It’s the eighth critical habitat plate offered, with the moose design now in addition to a loon, pheasant, chickadee, showy lady’s slipper, a fishing scene and white-tailed deer.

“Moose are synonymous with Minnesota’s north woods and its outdoor heritage,” Tom Landwehr, Minnesota DNR commissioner, said in a statement announcing the new plates.

“Nothing captures the essence of being up north better than a bull moose feeding in the shallows of a boreal lake, and that’s exactly what this new license plate depicts,” Landwehr said.

Funds dedicated

In addition, the DNR and Les Kouba Outdoors, the company that holds the rights to the late painter’s artwork sales, announced that a portion of the company’s revenues from moose art will be dedicated to moose research. The two parties started Call of the Moose Minnesota to oversee the effort.

“This is a unique, public-private partnership formed to help pay for wildlife research and habitat work that we hope keeps moose on Minnesota’s landscape,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.

“Les Kouba, the man and his wildlife art, have long epitomized the love of nature and wildlife conservation,” said Greg Meyer, Les Kouba Outdoors president. “We are all challenged to conserve, restore and manage our precious natural resources so that generations to come can enjoy Minnesota’s bountiful outdoors to the greatest extent possible.”

Dwindling herd

The moose herd in Northeastern Minnesota has dwindled to an estimated 4,300 animals, less than half of the 2006 estimate of 8,800. The population declined to a point last year that DNR officials opted to cancel the state’s very limited moose hunting season after years of scaling back the number of licenses offered. No hunt will be held this year, as well.

Minnesota’s moose are at the southern range in North America, and scientists say that a combination of habitat issues, predators, disease and parasites – with an overriding issue of rising regional temperatures – have combined to affect moose populations. But it remains unclear why the situation has become so dire, so fast.

Dozens of adult and calf moose are now being followed using GPS collars to find out where they eat, sleep, cool-off on hot days and – most importantly – when, where and why they die.

Critical habitat license plate revenue has generated more than $25 million toward the purchase of 7,700 acres of critical habitat and helped fund non-game wildlife research and surveys, habitat enhancement and educational programs. Information about the program is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/plates.

The new plates are available now at county deputy registrar offices statewide. For more information, go to callofthemoose.com.

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