December 2, 2023

Maine’s Moose Being Regulated Naturally?

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While the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) dithers and collects data from moose and aerial surveys – why I’m not sure yet – I believe what Maine people, at least those that pay attention, are seeing is a form of what will happen when wildlife management is left to the whims of Mother Nature promoted by Environmentalism.

It makes sense that at the peak of the moose herd growth, Maine had too many moose and in some areas it may still be the case. Too many moose, aside from creating too many vehicle collisions, brought us a bumper crop of winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus), so much so that the abundance of ticks began killing off the moose. That’s what Mother Nature does, the result of which benefits no one and this makes little sense.

Because, generally speaking, wildlife management actions lag reality by about 3 years or more, it’s those interim years that get many of us worked up. Then we are often told that managers must collect data and form scientific opinions before making and/or changing moose management plans. We then begin to see the fluctuations of what letting Nature regulate itself will bring.

During the interim, we see guess work and politics rule the moose management plan. Presently, it appears MDIFW is guessing about the numbers and condition of the moose herd and trying to move the number of moose permits up or down hoping it will meet their whims. At the same time we learn that MDIFW is recommending certain permit changes because moose gawkers are demanding it. Odd that moose gawkers get stroked but when moose hunters, who pay all the bills, suggest more permits to reduce and stabilize the herd, we are ignored. Think about it. If moose watchers are granted their demands for more moose to look at, why then, aren’t hunters granted their demands for more moose to hunt? If the scientific evidence reveals there’s room for more moose to watch, then there’s room for more moose to hunt.

And speaking of moose permit changes, I recently wrote about Maine’s plan to reduce moose permits so that moose gawkers could see more moose. This article was in response to a piece I found in the Portland Press Herald in which the author of that piece said, “A proposal to reduce Maine’s moose permits by 24 percent has struck a discord between hunters and those who simply want to view the state animal.

“State wildlife biologists made the proposal Wednesday to meet public demand for greater opportunities to see moose, particularly in northern Maine.”

In a recent posting on George Smith’s personal website he wrote: “Moose permits are not being decreased this year so there will be more moose for viewing.” Both George Smith and Deirdre Fleming can’t be right. So what gives?

It wouldn’t be the first time MDIFW has decided to reduce the moose hunting opportunities to placate the moose gawkers. Just last year the Department cut moose permits in the Greenville, Maine region to “balance social demands” for the moose gawkers.

MIDFW has mentioned that in at least one Wildlife Management District moose production has dropped below management goals and are using that as part reason to reduce permits. Without questioning the management plans, that would be a reasonable decisions based upon MDIFW’s best available science and not the latest clamoring and demanding more moose for the moose looking businesses.

Through all of this, I was recently asked if I thought what we are seeing, i.e. tons of winter ticks, reduced reproduction of moose, is the result of poor or incorrect management of the state’s largest game animal. I had to agree. When we consider that one of the events that set the stage for a rapid growth in the moose herd was the onset of the spruce budworm – resulting clear-cuts – we have to now understand that with many of those clear-cuts in which moose thrive, along with other animals such as snowshoe hares that feed the Canada lynx and other predators, have grown up and are on the verge of maturation. Doesn’t this tell us that the prime habitat to support a lot of moose is disappearing? This in and of itself will reduced moose reproduction.

Then we see the onset of winter ticks. MDIFW and other researchers, because they have been misled with false science, continue to blame global warming for the growth in winter ticks. I strongly believe that regardless of what the current moose study could reveal, any issues will be promptly blamed to global warming.

I have often asked if MDIFW biologists, who claim to be the front-runners in moose management, have considered what is taught in Biology 101, that too many animals in too small an area promotes disease? MDIFW moose managers admit that right now, the number one cause of moose mortality is the result of the presence of winter ticks. Perhaps they forgot to also mention that within that observable mortality exists the unseen mortality – aborted fetuses and a reduction in moose production.

There’s probably only one thing worse than managing wildlife according to social demands; that is managing it unscientifically, based on unproven, non-scientific, garbage about a man-caused warming planet.

There is one thing that we can count on. If man doesn’t, can’t and won’t manage its wildlife based upon the real scientific principle, that was once driven by providing a resource for the people and food to eat, the often demanded “self regulation” will take hold and I guarantee the majority of people will not like the result, nor is there much sense in managing for scarcity.

Because Maine’s moose population grew to numbers too large to support in the long haul, a small niche business resulted in moose watching. Instead of thanking the hunters for financing moose management, those businesses now want to take away moose hunting opportunities. It may have been a mistake to try to grow too many moose. Now, MDIFW, instead of adding to the problems, need to step up and own the responsibility even if it means some lost revenue for the moose watching business. After all, hunters are always asked to give in and give up if it means a better management plan.

What we see in Maine right now with moose might be just a glimpse into the future.