A glimmer of hope for health of moose in northern US

Published 8:27 am Friday, March 23, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine — Moose have struggled with parasites throughout the northern U.S., but Maine hunters might be allowed to harvest more of the state’s iconic land mammal this year because of strong survival rates in the northern parts of the state.

Moose survival in far northern Maine represents a glimmer of hope for the enormous animals in the far northeastern corner of the country. And hunting permits might reflect that by increasing by more than 20 percent this year, to 2,500, said Lee Kantar, the state’s moose biologist.

“All of that increase is coming from the far north,” Kantar said. “Our survival for adults is high across the board.”

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State regulators in Maine and elsewhere, concerned about the toll of pests and disease on the herd, have trimmed the number of moose hunting permits in recent years.

In Vermont, for example, authorities are recommending the lowest number of permits in the modern era this year — only 14. Minnesota suspended its moose hunt completely, with some exceptions for members of native tribes.

Northern Maine’s moose might be aided by the fact that their habitat has more in common with southern Canada than Vermont and New Hampshire, Kantar said. A major threat facing moose is the winter tick, which especially harms moose calves, and the calves appear to be experiencing fewer ticks in the state’s far northern reaches, he said.

The news of a potential bump in permits is welcomed by hunters, but it’s still a good idea to be conservative with the state’s moose population, said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Moose are also important for Maine tourism because of wildlife lovers who come to try to see the giant animals, Trahan said.

“We as sportsmen need to recognize that moose watching is pretty important to the economy,” he said. “We just want to make sure we protect both.”

Moose are Maine’s state animal, and the state’s herd is the largest in the continental U.S. at an estimated 60,000 or more animals The moose hunt typically attracts tens of thousands of applications to the state’s moose lottery.

Scientists collared about 70 moose in Maine this year and all but two have survived, Kantar said. Overall survival rates of the animals in the state have been “pretty robust,” he said, despite concerns around the country of moose die-offs due to ticks, brainworm and liver flukes.