Hunters are concerned that due to pressure from forest and landowners, the moose population has declined too rapidly. According to Aimar Rakko, the hunting advisor of the Ministry of Climate, the current moose population is at a reasonable level, and there shouldn't be any more excessive forest damage.
The Estonian Hunters' Society reported that a total of 4,037 moose were hunted in the past hunting season – 164 fewer than what would have been allowed according to the Environmental Agency's monitoring report. Priit Vahtramäe, a board member of the Hunters' Society, is worried that the moose population is decreasing too rapidly.
"We estimate the population to be 7,500, which in our opinion is the minimum for the forest to grow and for hunters to continue hunting. We believe that this population should not be reduced further but maintained," Vahtramäe said.
Aimar Rakko believes the hunters are too pessimistic and suggests waiting for the fresh monitoring data, which will be available around Midsummer's Day.
"The moose population has decreased somewhat in recent years, but certainly not as much as hunters currently portray. The Environmental Agency has yet to complete the moose counts including pellet counts, track indices, and grid counts. The last surveys were conducted a year ago, in 2023, estimating the moose population in Estonia to be approximately 11,000. Hunters suggest 7,500, which would be too significant a drop and it's very unlikely that the population has declined so much in one year," Rakko explained.
In 2013, there were 20,000 moose. That year, a new hunting law was passed and intensive moose hunting began.
According to Priit Vahtramäe, the task of the hunters was to regulate the moose population. "It was necessary to bring it to a level that would satisfy all parties. Certainly, forest owners would prefer the moose population to be as low as possible to minimize damage," said Vahtramäe.
Hunting quotas are agreed upon in the hunting council, which includes hunters, forest and landowners, and the state. Aimar Rakko suggests that the current hunting pressure could be reduced.
"It's true that a decade ago, the moose population in Estonia was significantly higher, and there were more forest damages caused by moose. Therefore, during that period, hunting pressure increased significantly. The moose population decreased, but the psychological pressure from land and forest owners remained. In hunting councils, hunters and landowners can discuss and agree on these hunting quotas. If they see that in a certain county the moose population has significantly decreased according to monitoring data, they can also reduce the hunting quota," Rakko described.
He believes that there are very reasonable people in the hunting councils who understand the local conditions.
Priit Vahtramäe believes the moose population should remain around 10,000, and this is something hunters can influence.
"This would require more focus on selective hunting and structures. In hunting, this means equally hunting all genders – bulls, cows, and calves. If there are fewer calves, then the norms should be lowered. If there are more calves, it can be increased, but we should not hunt beyond the growth rate," said Vahtramäe.
Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski