ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The fire still smoldering in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should give a boost in the long-run to the region's declining moose population, but it's a big problem for hunters who were registered for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bag a bull moose this fall.
The Pagami Creek fire east of Ely has kept hunters out of the area and left them unable to scout it ahead of the season that opens Saturday. So the Department of Natural Resources is offering them refunds for the cost of their highly coveted permits. The plan is to give those hunters permits for next season.
Some 6,000 hunters entered the lottery for moose-hunt permits this year. The DNR issued only 105. Hunters who win permits normally don't get to apply again, whether they get a moose or not, and the future of moose hunting in the state is in question. Under rules proposed by the DNR, 2013 could be the last year Minnesota allows moose hunting if certain population markers don't improve over the next two years.
The fire has scattered quarry, changed the landscape and forced closures in ways that make the challenge for hunters even harder.