December 18, 2017

Confusing Moose Crash Information

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Statistics Prove that Statistics Sometimes Don’t Prove Anything

Either Maine has more moose or fewer moose and more car crashes with moose or fewer crashes with moose. Or, maybe there’s both or all of the above all at once…or none of the above.

A recent article written for the Online version of the Portland Press Herald, in the title, states that the moose herd has declined and so have the number of vehicle collisions with moose. The article begins by stating that these collisions have dropped “in part because of efforts by state officials to alert drivers to the danger of the crashes.”

Then we are told that three Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) will not be allotted any Moose Permits this Saturday during the Lottery Drawing, “where a dramatic decrease in moose-vehicle collisions indicates a drop in the region’s moose herd.” Evidently the DOT doesn’t work to educate drivers in these WMDs about the dangers of colliding with a moose? And is the fish and wildlife department now using vehicle collisions to determine moose populations?

Maine’s moose expert, Lee Kantar, says in the early 2000s methods used to estimate moose populations weren’t as good as they are today. Because of the constant changes in methods of estimating, it’s impossible to make any honest comparisons as to increases or decreases in moose and vehicle collisions and the causes for reductions or increases. We shouldn’t kid ourselves. All we really know is the number of collisions. That’s easy data to collect.

What’s confusing is that this report says that the Maine moose population “is between 60,000 and 70,000, down from 76,000 in 2013.” I have serious doubts about these numbers. At one time, during debate about how to manage Maine’s moose, some members of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) estimated Maine’s moose population to run around 90,000. About all that boots on the ground tells us is that moose numbers are way down – from how many is anyone’s guess.

But the information continues to be confusing. Kantar says there are “probably less moose” and then cites, “moose populations in midcoast and southern Maine are thin.” If we go by the numbers given, statewide there has been a reduction of 6,000 moose since 2013. How much of that reduction then comes from these three WMDs? Perhaps all of it as Kantar states, “the moose population appears to be thriving there [Aroostook County].” He says that the moose population in the northern counties has remained “stable.” Stable? I thought it was “thriving.” What’s also confusing is that he says moose in the southern part of the state are diminishing because of the winter tick problem. Huh? There are no winter ticks in the northern tier of the state? Or is it because MDIFW has data due to the ongoing moose study in the northern tier of the state while they continue to guess about what’s going on in the south?

Confusing!

So, let’s not take just Lee Kantar’s word for what’s going on. Ted Talbot, MDOT, says that, “despite installation of new forms of reflectors along Aroostook County’s main roads, crashes still occur frequently because there are more moose in the region.” Is the population “stable” or is it “thriving?”

This report states that according to Law Enforcement in Aroostook County, “there are still plenty of moose to avoid on the roads.”

Even though this report says that moose collisions in Aroostook County have “dropped to 129 last year, from 247 in 2007,” Madawaska Police say, “traffic accidents seem to be just as much a problem.” Are we to then assume that the efforts at warning drivers about moose is a waste of time and money?

So, what’s the point of all this? People should know by now that colliding your vehicle into a moose can be a very dangerous thing. If you live in Maine, you should always expect any animal is going to step into your path and you should be prepared. But, it’s bound to happen.

It appears as though the number of collisions with moose has decreased. That’s a good thing, unless moose numbers continue to decline to a point where there are no collisions and thus might tell us that the moose herd is in serious jeopardy. As far as what has caused the decline in moose collisions, this report isn’t really that much help and the information from MDIFW, DOT and law enforcement only confuses the issue.

All of this just makes me wonder a lot of things about media reliability and the accuracy of information being given by fish and wildlife, DOT and law enforcement. Maybe all their information is just too political and therefore makes no sense at all.

 

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