August 19, 2019

Maine IFW Reduces Moose Permits

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*Editor’s Note* – The below press release states that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has opted to reduce the number of “female moose permits available” due to “the impact of winter tick.” It should be noted that hunters and other outdoor sportsmen have been saying for a few years now that ticks were one of the things killing off moose and yet what we were hearing was that Maine’s moose population had grown to where some estimated it to be approaching 100,000.

MDIFW should be commended for taking action to mitigate the moose losses. However, at the same time I cannot help but question some of the information that we are being given in this press release and other previous media reports. The release says there was a loss of 30% of female moose where normally it would be 10%. We are not told the mortality rate of male moose (assuming this includes calves). If those numbers are accurate, along with estimates of total moose populations at 75,000, combined with an estimated 1:1 ratio of males to females, 11,250 female moose died this winter (again, assuming this is total mortality). If we make the assumption that if 30% of female moose died from all effects of winter, then can we also conclude that male moose died at a rate of 30%, or higher? That would mean total winter mortality on moose stands at around 22,500 creatures. That’s serious!

Hopefully, the ongoing moose study will also provide biologists with more accurate information (that will be shared) on where the calf recruitment stands. If that number is below sustainable levels, Maine has a very serious moose issue, which helps to explain why Lee Kantar and company recommended a reduction in cow moose permits by 1,015.

Let’s not lose track of the fact of the mixed messages that have been coming out of MDIFW during this long, difficult winter. First of note is that Kyle Ravana, MDIFW’s new head deer biologist, said in late March that he estimated the winter mortality on deer to be 12%. Can we even take that estimate seriously considering Kantar’s estimate of 30% moose loss? Granted ticks don’t bother deer like moose but if those numbers are accurate then perhaps Maine’s tick problem is more of a problem than we are being told….or it’s something else.

Second mixed message deals with a claim that was made by Lee Kantar and reported on the WCSHTV website back on May 2, that the Maine population “was holding steady.” That was qualified with a “however” however. The however being that Kantar “suspects” the new and ongoing moose study will reveal a lower than expected calf recruitment. Why and how does this, if at all, contribute to a 30% winter mortality on moose? MDIFW appears to be doing a lousy job of getting information out to the public in any kind of accurate and consistent fashion. Get it? On May 2 we are told the moose population is holding steady but calf recruitment may be a concern. on May 9, we are told the moose population was cut by 30% and a substantial reduction in moose permits is forthcoming. In seven days all this was discovered? It makes little sense.

Who are we then to believe and why?

And on a related note, it appears that this past winter was one of those winters that all the wildlife managers have been asking for to reduce the population of winter ticks. It will be of great interest to me to learn just how much effect it will have. The excuse has always been global warming and with that excuse the lamentation that “what we need are some old fashioned winters with cold temperatures and heavy snow to kill off the ticks,” has bounced around in the echo chamber for years. WE SHALL SEE!

AUGUSTA, Maine — Due to a peak year for winter ticks and their impact on the moose population this winter, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is reducing the number of moose permits available to hunters this fall.

Earlier today, The IFW’s advisory council accepted the department’s recommendation to reduce the number of moose permits available for the 2014 season. This fall, the department will issue 3,095 permits statewide, down from the 4,110 that were available last year.

“Based upon the research of our biologists, I feel it is prudent to decrease the number of female moose permits available,” said IFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock. “Decreasing the amount of permits will help lessen the impact of winter tick on the state’s moose population.”

In particular, the department decreased the number of antlerless only permits that are available to hunters. Antlerless only permits were decreased in wildlife management Districts 1-5, 7-9 and 12-13. This is the northern and northwestern part of Maine, including the northern portions of Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Aroostook Counties.

Winter ticks have been documented in Maine since the 1930s. Periodically, there are peak years when the number of ticks increase substantially.

Each year, IFW biologists sample moose for winter tick densities at moose registration stations during the moose hunt. This past fall, biologists noted one of the highest tick counts in the past 10 years.

In making the recommendation to reduce permits, IFW biologists also used data from the radio collar moose study that is ongoing. Early data from the study shows that there was about a 30 percent mortality rate for adult females, which is above the average 10 percent winter mortality rate for female moose.

IFW wildlife biologists have also documented a number of moose winter kills throughout the state. Many of the moose carcasses are engorged with winter ticks, and some are practically bare of hair as they have tried to rub the ticks off.

“Maine has had winter tick for decades, and Maine’s moose population has encountered peak tick years before, as they happen periodically,” said IFW moose biologist Lee Kantar. “Even with the increase in ticks this year, by decreasing the number of antlerless permits available, we can continue to meet our population objectives for moose.”

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