Northern Minnesota resident Katie Mumm is celebrating her close encounter with three bull moose on the Gunflint Trail.
“When I moved here I remember the day … I saw a cow moose with two yearlings, and then I was hooked, and I couldn’t stop looking for them,” Mumm said.
But she quickly learned that moose aren’t easy to come by. Still, as an amateur photographer, she’s good at practicing patience. And last week, it paid off.
“All three of them put their heads down and maneuvered their huge antlers through the woods. They’re just really cool,” Mumm said.
She got pictures of not one, but three bull moose together. It is a rarity, even in these parts.
“It was definitely thrilling. My heart was racing. I was, you know, worried I wouldn’t get the right pictures, so I was kind of hurrying to get that,” she said. “And then I drove to the closest spot with Wi-Fi and called my mom [laughs]! So I was really excited.”
What makes this even more unique is that moose numbers have fluctuated a lot in Minnesota. Within the past 12 years, the population has been as high as 9,000. But it has since dropped to just more than 3,200.
Tom Rusch, a wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says this is the smallest moose population he has seen in the past 20 years. He says wolves, bears, disease from deer and even climate change have impacted the population. But moose also thrive after forest fires and windstorms, something the Arrowhead region hasn’t seen much of lately.
“Opening up that dense canopy is good, so sunlight is hitting the floor. That produces food, and moose need a lot of food,” Rusch said.
The moose Mumm saw were foraging. It was a close encounter she will forever cherish.
“Someone told me it’s a career-making photo, and I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for that moment for a really long time,’” Mumm said.
Regardless of the low numbers, the DNR says the moose population has remained steady, and the animals are holding their own.