Moose were once common in the Northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Native
Americans captured and killed moose using a number of methods including snares,
pitfalls, and drift fences. The meat and hides from moose provided sustenance and
clothing for the Native peoples in northern Michigan.
As white settlers moved into northern Michigan, hunting, habitat alteration and increased
white-tailed deer numbers with their associated parasites probably led to the reduction of
the moose population. By 1900, moose were extirpated in the Lower Peninsula . It is
unclear whether moose were ever extirpated in the Upper Peninsula, but, at the very least,
the population was substantially reduced. In 1931 and 1932 moose were reported from
only Alger, Chippewa, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, and Schoolcraft counties. The
potential exists that moose moved from Canada, across the St. Marys River and Whitefish
Point, into Chippewa and Luce counties. This may account for the fact that more moose
were observed in those two counties than in any other.
Moose did not exist on Isle Royale prior to 1900. It is not known exactly how or when
moose did arrive on the island. One line of thought is that the animals crossed over on the
ice from Ontario, while another story has it that they were captured in western Minnesota
and translocated to the island around 1907. In either event, by 1930 there were an
estimated 3000 animals on the island. This density was more than the habitat could
support, and resulted in malnutrition and starvation. In 1934-37, the Michigan Department
of Conservation undertook a project to reduce moose numbers on Isle Royale and
replenish the mainland UP moose herd with animals from Isle Royale. Seventy-one
moose were captured and translocated off the island. Six moose were sent to the Cusino
Research Station, two went to the Detroit Zoo and the remainder were released in
Schoolcraft, Delta, and Keweenaw Counties.
While moose observations continued, mainly in the eastern UP, the translocation from Isle
Royale did not have the intended effect of substantially increasing the moose population.
Subsequently, in 1985 and 1987 a total of 59 additional moose were translocated into
Marquette and Baraga Counties.
To learn more about the Moose Project, use the links to the right.