November 17, 2018

Maine Might Reduce Moose Permits…Again

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Some newspaper outlets are reporting that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is suggesting that perhaps they will be reducing the number of Moose Permits allocated in certain Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) because of reduced populations of the moose. This is, of course, the benefit of managing game within districts rather than as a lump throughout the state.

In the midst of an ongoing 5-year moose study, at least in the districts in question, the winter tick seems to be the culprit for reduced numbers. We certainly hope that MDIFW is on top of things.

Several years ago when outdoor sportsmen began talking about what effect these winter ticks were having on moose, I’m not so sure that the professionals at MDIFW really had a handle on whether ticks were a problem as it pertained to moose mortality. During that time, I asked MDIFW biologist Lee Kantar if ticks were killing moose. While he didn’t say no and he didn’t say yes, he did say that there was a possibility that the effects of ticks could contribute to the winter time mortality.

I think early study results and the years of boots-on-the-ground anecdotal evidence has shown that a serious tick infestation results in a serious threat to moose winter survival. In understanding what causes the increase in ticks, the scapegoat, as is just too typical, is global warming. I say phooey! A lack of understanding leads some to say a good old fashioned snowy and cold winter will take care of the ticks; that’s not necessarily true. Maine typically does not sustain cold enough temperatures long enough to begin killing ticks during winter. The only effect that might come into play would be in the spring after ticks fall from the moose. Moose in Maine remain near the southern end of their range and maybe Maine is trying to manage for too many moose.

Maine is guilty of allowing the social demands for moose watching to influence their management decisions. They openly admit that it is not just science that determines management procedures. Perhaps the next round of creating the required moose management plan (I think in 2017), can scientifically more than socially, make adjustments that would provide for a smaller and yet healthier herd of moose. If MDIFW does not want to do that then they should make determinations as to when the ticks are running high and adjust the moose permits upward in order to force the moose population downward and mitigate the effects of winter tick mortality.

It would be irresponsible to do nothing except let the moose suffer through the winter.

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