A Question For The ND Game And Fish Department: Do You Think We’re Stupid?

There is an AP story about the 2013 North Dakota Moose and Elk License Proclamation on the Grand Forks Herald’s website today that is very confusing to me. The story is basically a short version of the press release sent out by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department this past Monday. It says that there will be just 111 moose licenses available in North Dakota this year, 32 fewer than last year.

The story says “Game and Fish Department officials say the drop in moose tags is due in part to a downward population trend in the northeastern part of the state.”

The GFD press release quotes Randy Kreil, Game and Fish Department wildlife chief, saying “a downward population trend in the northeastern portion of the state is of great concern. Unit M1C will remain closed, and in addition, unit M4, which encompasses the Turtle Mountains, is also closed this year.”

Well, what the press release doesn’t say is that Unit M1C has  been closed for at least four years (maybe longer—I couldn’t find the 2009 proclamation, but subsequent ones show the unit was closed in 2010 and has not re-opened).

What the press release also doesn’t say is that the Department has only been issuing seven tags in Unit M4 the last three years, so the drop in licenses in that unit (primarily the Turtle Mountains) only accounts for 7 of the 32 fewer tags being issued this year. What about the other 25?

Let’s review the Moose Proclamation for the past four years.

In 2010, there were a total of 173 moose tags issued. Of those, more than half, 90 of them, were in Units M10 and M11, an area basically described as everything in Northwest North Dakota north of Lake Sakakawea and west of U.S. Highway 83. You can see the map here by scrolling down to the bottom of the proclamation. Looks a lot like the map of the Bakken Oil Field, doesn’t it?

In 2011, the Department issued 160 tags, a drop of 13. The total for Units M10 and M11 that year was 77, a drop of–you guessed it–13. All the other units remained the same as the previous year.

In 2012, the total number of tags was 143, a drop of 17. That year, the Department merged Unit M11 into Unit M10, (you can see the map here, again if you scroll all the way down to the bottom) and even made it larger by extending the southern boundary down to Highway 200, and they issued a total of 70 tags for the new unit, M10. That’s 7 fewer than the previous year. The other drop (10) was in Unit M8, east of the Turtle Mountains.

This year, the number of total tags is down to 111, 32 less than last year. That’s a huge drop, almost 25 per cent, in just one year. Of that number, 50 are in Unit M10, which is 20 fewer than last year. (Here’s the map—it’s basically the same as the 2012 version.) That’s a drop in that unit of more than 25 per cent in one year.

To review, then:

The total number of moose tags issued in North Dakota has dropped from 173 to 111 since 2010, a drop of 36 per cent over four years, and the total number of tags in Unit M10—which just happens to be almost the exact land area as the Bakken Oil Formation—has dropped from 90 to 50—almost in half, in the same period of time.

And if you go back and look at the press release that has accompanied the proclamation each of those years, you will find pretty much the same statement from Game and Fish: “Game and Fish Department officials say the drop in moose tags is due in part to a downward population trend in the northeastern part of the state.”

You could look it up. You could go back and Google and find all those press releases. Or you could just trust me. Because I did it.


Do they think we’re stupid? Don’t they think that someone like me might actually do the math?

Then there’s this: If you listen to Randy Kreil on this week’s Game and Fish Dept. webcast,  he says, about 3 minutes into the webcast, the drop in moose licenses is “primarily in the north and west part of the state.”

He said that the same day as the press release went out, which said, as I quoted it earlier,  “Randy Kreil, Game and Fish Department wildlife chief, said a downward population trend in the northeastern portion of the state is of great concern. Unit M1C will remain closed, and in addition, unit M4, which encompasses the Turtle Mountains, is also closed this year.” Here’s the whole press release. Do you think maybe they ought to have “great concern” about the moose population in the Oil Patch?

And why two different, conflicting stories on the same day? Could it possibly be that Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand and Jack Dalrymple, or his chief of staff, Ron Rauschenberger, have to approve the press releases before they go out, but they just weren’t in the room when Randy made the video with Game and Fish PR flack Tom Jensen? Do ya suppose?

Dammit, Randy Kreil is a good guy. As long as I’ve known him, he’s been a straight shooter. But there’s just something going on at Game and Fish that we simply cannot tolerate any more. They are supposed to be on OUR side.

Yes, you read that right: there are two sides now. There’s the oil industry and its lackeys—Jack Dalrymple, Lynn Helms, and, I fear now, Terry Steinwand, who, you will recall, sat on an unfavorable report done by his own scientists for almost a year because his bosses didn’t want us to read bad news about how the oil industry is impacting our wildlife—and then there are the rest of us North Dakotans, who are just watching our way of life disappear, and we’re helpless to do anything about it, because those who are supposed to be looking out for the good of the state and its people are on the wrong side.

That 2010 report, you will recall, dealt mostly with mule deer, elk, and several other species, but conveniently left out the industry’s impact on moose. Well, I’m no scientist, but the simple Google research I just did this morning paints a pretty clear picture of a big problem with our moose population.

And speaking of elk, the next to last sentence in the AP story this morning reads like this:  “The cutback in the number of elk licenses continues a reduction program that began in 2010 in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. “

Would somebody explain to me what that sentence even means?

Earlier this week I wrote about the problem with Bighorn Sheep being run down by oil trucks. I hadn’t really intended for this to become a hunting blog, but if I get time one of these days, I’m going to take a look at elk licenses. Anyone want to guess what I’m going to find?

Update 4 p.m. March 13:

Randy Kreil responded to my blog with this e-mail:

It was simply an oversight when we sent out the press release.  It’s clear we were not clear and that the webcast comments did not match up with the news release.  What we should have said in the news release is that in addition to the decline in the northeast we also are concerned about what we believe is a declining population trend in the northwest. We did not have an actual moose aerial survey block in this area until this year when we established one because we did not have a source for any real hard data. We intend to fly it every year to get a better handle on the actual trend.  I am as much to blame as anyone if not more for this confusion because I reviewed the news release before it went out and did not catch the omission.  It was a bad mistake and I will take the hit for it because I deserve it.  The webcast came out just prior to the news release and I should have made sure they were exactly the same.  There is nothing to hide here but simply an oversight. I have been telling people all week about a suspected decline in moose in the northwest and our decision to reduce licenses.

Note from Jim: I will ask him, as soon as I can, what the science is behind the drastic reduction in the licenses in Unit M10. Game and Fish almost always makes biological decisions, based on hard evidence, regarding license numbers. I have never seen any reference to concern about what we believe is a declining population trend in the northwest” in any Game and Fish publication or news release. If there is, I hope Randy can show it to me.

2 Responses

  1. Michael Kane

    All hunting tags in ND, for all purposes, should be issued for no other place than M10 and M11. Then shoot the hell out of those friggin’ frakkin’ wells. Make it a health issue to even show up on site.

    (sorry, I get a bit carried away)

  2. Hi everyone, I am born and raised in good old ND. I am not a game warden, but a true sportsman. I had the luck this year to be drawn for both the Elk (E1) and Moose (M9) tags. The game wardens are doing the best they can with the coverage area they have to cover. I have known some personally and they are great guys, they are just like you and I but holding up the law since that is what they are getting paid for. Without them we as sportsman would not enjoy the North Dakota outdoors as we see it today. If anyone has any moose in M9 they want to get rid of this fall let me know, I would really appreciate any help I can get.

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