April 1, 2015

Deadline Approaching for Maine Moose Lottery

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

The deadline to apply for the Maine Moose Lottery is fast approaching, and hunters who want the chance to hunt moose in Maine need to mail or deliver their paper application by April 1, 2015. Online applicants have until 11:59 on May 14, 2015 to apply for the moose lottery.

Online and paper applications are available at www.mefishwildlife.com. Hunters can print and mail their paper application, deliver it to IFW headquarters at 284 State Street in Augusta or can easily apply directly online.

Long-time lottery applicants who continue to apply have a better chance at winning due to changes in the lottery implemented in 2012.

Bonus points are awarded for each consecutive year the applicant has applied for the lottery since 1998 without being selected and each bonus point gives the applicant an additional chance in the drawing.

Bonus points are earned at the rate of one per year for years one to five, two per year for years six to 10, three per year for years 11 to 15 and 10 per year for years 16 and beyond.

Since 2011, applicants can skip a year and not lose their bonus points. So if they applied in 2013 but not in 2014, they still have their points available if they apply in 2015.

The moose permit drawing drawing will take place on June 13, 2015 at the Moose Festival in Bethel, Maine. To learn more about the three-day festival, please visit www.bethelmainemoosefest.com

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Ticks Killing Maine Moose

More discussion existed with the Joint Standing Committee and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife moose biologist Lee Kantar. According to what George Smith wrote in his column on his website, ticks are responsible for the death of 70% of collared calves.

Representative Steve Wood asked if all those moose were killed by ticks. Kantar said that, with the collared calves, he is “pretty confident that ticks killed them,” but with the cows, “I am still in the process of working with folks in New Hampshire and the University of Maine to find out if there was anything else that might have killed them. It’s a long process to run this through.”

How moose are managed and the tactics used to manipulate and/or control the population growth is building up to be a bit on the controversial side I am thinking. Smith writes:

I’ve been questioning, for years, why we harvest more than 10% of deer and bear but just 3.3 percent of moose. And Representative Wood asked that question. Kantar responded, “We are talking about very different critters, different reproductive rates of growth, different guidelines (bulls to moose) – we don’t do that bucks to does ratio in deer. “It doesn’t take much to change the population structure of moose. You seldom have negative growth with deer like you do with moose.”

I understand some of that but not all of it. This implies, and I agree with Smith, that the management strategy is to protect big bull moose but it is unclear why? Most wildlife population manipulation is achieved in a few ways, including harvest, but mostly through manipulating the number of breeding females to control the birth rate. This, of course, is dependent upon many other factors. It’s not just black and white.

I’m curious if there are biological reasons that younger bulls can’t get the mating job done. Could it be that younger bull moose, even though they are of mating age, fail at impregnating the cow moose? Seems odd to me. Dr. Valerius Geist, a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary in Canada, and someone that I from time to time consult with on wildlife issues, provided information about protecting the gene pool. Essentially he stated that genes are genes. They get passed on down through each successive generation. Some think that if they are not seeing the bigger male animals, that something has screwed up the gene pool. It might be something else.

Lee Kantar told me one time about gene pools and he mostly reiterated what Dr. Geist said.

What does concern me a little bit is what Kantar said, according to Smith’s article, about keeping moose watchers happy:

“We are all told how important seeing moose is, it’s a tough balance, but I think the department does a good job of balancing all interests.”

As most readers know, I see little future in managing any wildlife according to social demands and moose are no different. If I cannot find a biological reason to protect larger bull moose in manipulating the age structure then I would assume that there can really be only two reasons to do that – one is to provide larger, trophy bull moose for hunters and the other would be to have more big bulls for moose watchers to see. Both of those are not necessarily in the best interest of the health and scientific management of moose.

As Maine’s moose study continues, I look forward to hearing more what is being concluded by the biologists. It should prove interesting.

We Are All Montanans Now

By James Beers:

A stunning maneuver by the federal government was recently brought to my attention. While it is directed at the government of the State of Montana concerning shooting ranges; there is a much broader precedent establishment being attempted that concerns every state official and every rural resident that farms, grazes, hunts, fishes, traps, owns animals and/or owns property or recreates in myriad ways on both public and private rural landscapes.

BACKGROUND:

* Since 1987 Montana Shooting Sports Association and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have partnered to make about $25 M in grants available to local shooting ranges. This wildly popular program has made a huge difference in the availability of safe and suitable places for Montanans to shoot and practice gun (and by extension hunter) safety.

* Early in the program, federal funding was sought but insurmountable red tape from several federal sources made such funding impractical. For more than a decade, in-state hunting license fees were used to fund the program

* The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has always administered the program and this was confirmed in a State Statute in 1999.

* State funding budgets are confirmed every two years (the Legislature meets every two years).

* In the last two funding cycles, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has diverted nearly all of this funding from the State budget for other purposes not budgeted by the Legislature such as employee pay raises.

* This year the State Legislature is considering proposing putting the money they authorize for shooting ranges into a separate account to be used ONLY for shooting ranges.

* The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks objects to this, claiming it violates the Pittman Robertson (Wildlife Restoration) Act that is the basis for federal collection of Excise Taxes on guns, ammunition, archery paraphernalia and certain imports. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks notified the US Fish and Wildlife Service Excise Tax administrators who have threatened to deny all Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds (over $27M last year) if the State tells their own agency where to spend the money they authorize for shooting ranges. As a result, the State’s own wildlife agency is fixing to oppose the State legislature and Governor’s exercise of their duly elected and sworn duty to exercise oversight and set priorities OVER THEIR OWN EMPLOYEES WORKING IN THE STATE AGENCY THEY ESTABLISHED, AUTHORIZED, FUND AND FOR WHICH THEY (THE LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR) ARE THE SOURCE OF THEIR POWER AND CONTINUING OPERATION.

FURTHER FEDERAL BACKGROUND:

* The US Fish and Wildlife Service Office that was notified by the State agency was the Federal Aid Program. This State Excise Tax oversight office is the very office that “saw no evil, heard no evil, and said no evil” twenty years ago when their political bosses stole $45 to 60M of the Excise Taxes from the state agencies (and you and me and our wildlife programs financed by our license dollars and equipment purchases) and then used the money secretly to capture Canadian wolves and release them in Yellowstone plus open a new office in California to all but share space with the environmental extremist and animal rights radical organizations that were replacing the historic wildlife management and wildlife users organizations as federal partners. Both the wolves and the office had been turned down by Congress and were refused authorization before the appointees, bureaucrats and the administration decided to simply steal the money, release the wolves and build the new office anyway.

* This federal office oversees the operation of state wildlife agencies for compliance with Excise Tax uses named as “eligible” in the law and the operation of the state wildlife agency activities and uses of license revenue to remain eligible for their annual share or “Apportionment” of available Excise Taxes based on their area and the sale of hunting licenses in the state. Historic violations included Excise Tax or license dollars used to purchase vehicles for state motor pools; or such funds used to pay state parks’ employees; or hatchery fish or upland birds released on the private property of donors and politicians; or lands purchased with such funds used to build a prison; or revenue from timber sales on such lands put in the General Treasury; or selling wildlife for profit. These are examples of “diversions” and were supposed to be detected by audits by the overseers every five years as required by the law. Despite this requirement, the twenty years preceding the theft of the $45 to 60M were marked by the all-but disappearance of any audits, a hiatus that was welcomed by federal and state bureaucrats as their working “relationship” became closer and closer and more and more “informal”. When the theft of the money was exposed by a Government ACCOUNTING Office Audit, an audit firm was hired to audit every state wildlife agency and then to re-establish a 5-year cycle as required by law, corruption again reared its ugly head. Less than 3 years into the audits, the auditors had had found millions of dollars in “diversions”; the states were screaming (quietly); and federal bureaucrats wanted no more scandals: so the auditors were fired for being “behind schedule” and the Interior Department Inspector General who was simultaneously responsible for overseeing US Fish and Wildlife Service (?) was then “hired” to resume the audits. Needless to say, the “diversions” were evidently “mistakes” and never reported; and that particular Inspector General was introduced later by President Obama at his first State of the Union as the “New Inspector General for the Stimulus Program” that consisted of billions and which, like the state PR audits, was found to be as pure as the driven snow.

* An “Acting Chief” of the above Office responded to the letter from the Director of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks about shooting ranges and how those mean old Legislators and the Governor were about to tell the all-wise and smarter-than-everybody-else agency what to do! Imagine! Well, the
“Acting” (federal) Chief in what can only be described as an arrogant and laughable (if everyone rolls over for him) way said in his “view” (??) such administration by the State elected officials would “render Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks ineligible for further participation in the benefits (i.e. Excise Tax funding) of the (Wildlife and Sport Fish Program)”.

He told the downtrodden State Director that, in “our (federal government?, USFWS?, Solicitor?, a frog in his pocket?) view the (sic Montana) FWP would suffer a loss of control of its hunting and fishing license revenues” if the proposed bill was passed. All the State Director does is to tell the State officials that he will therefore be compelled to oppose the attempt by the Governor and Legislature to tell him (and “his” employees) what to do or how to do it. The fact that the State Director offered no blowback to the federal threat is, take my word, a clue.

Two reasons given for this federal threat to deny any future Excise Tax sharing are taken from the Code of Federal Regulations govern the PR Act in the letter:

1.) “Revenue from hunting and fishing licenses (must) be controlled only by the State Fish and Wildlife Agency.”

Does this mean that the Governor or Legislature cannot set priorities and expenditures for lawful and eligible Wildlife and Fisheries activities? Of course not! Can anyone argue that this Excise Tax program for conservation has contained within it for over 70 years an authority for federal bureaucrats to not merely assure that State governments did not MISUSE Excise Tax and Licenses dollars BUT TO DENY STATE GOVERNMENTS ANY ROLE IN THE ACTIVITIES AND PRIORITIES THEREOF FOR THEIR WILDLIFE AGENCY TO PURSUE JUST, LEGITIMATE AND ELIGIBLE (UNDER THE PR ACT) FISH AND WILDLIFE PROJECTS (that both the Act and the State agency share and agree on? Since when did the responsibility to assure compliance intended to protect “Eligible Uses” of Excise Tax and License dollars morph into a federal bureaucrat power to tell the duly elected officials of a State government to stand down because the federal bureaucrats doesn’t agree with their and the people of the state’s priorities?

2.) “Revenues from hunting and fishing licenses can only be used for administration of the State fish and wildlife agency which includes only the functions required to manage the agency and the fish and wildlife related resources for which the agency has authority under State law” and, “A State becomes ineligible to receive the benefits of the Act if it diverts hunting and fishing license revenue from purposes other than the agency’s administration.” Really?

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks was given the administration authority over shooting ranges by the Montana Legislature in 1999.

But, I am sure you are thinking, what about the federal view of shooting ranges especially in these days of gun control hysterics and the most anti-gun administration in my lifetime?

The PR Act and the Regulations promulgated under it define “Eligible Uses” of Excise Tax dollars and license revenues as “Constructing, operating and maintaining recreational firearms shooting and archery ranges” right alongside other eligible uses such as, “Management of wild bird and mammal populations”, “Managing wildlife habitat”, and “Providing public use that benefits from Wildlife Resources”.

So the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has the authority to manage shooting ranges and shooting ranges in totality are an “eligible use” under the federal Act and under State law, and the Governor and Legislature simply want more emphasis on it and for the agency to stop diverting shooting range money from where the State Legislators direct. How does the federal bureaucrat suggest they do that other than what they are considering? Will the federal bureaucrat pay for it like “the People” want? Will the federal bureaucrat even allow the Governor and State Legislature to even speak with these ostensible crybaby employees or will they just get their priorities from Washington henceforth? Federal priorities for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, given their way, span everything from wolves and grizzly “management” in accord with federal dictates to fooling a hostile Montana public into allowing federal “free-roaming buffalo” to be loosed like Yellowstone wolves once were and for eventually the State to “assume management” (how sweet that sounds) of the latest federal imposition following federal dictates on rural Montana in cahoots with State employees. All that takes money and Lord knows Montanans may want shooting ranges but federal bureaucrats want gun control and control of these ostensible “State” agencies AND their license revenue And their Excise Tax dollars to do what Montanans are obviously too dense to realize they should be doing if only they could see “the big picture”.

Finally, I had some extraneous, but I believe relevant, thoughts as I wrote this:

* I note that the State agency is “preparing to argue against HB 234”. This plus their request to federal overseers and then the absence of any blowback by the state agency to argue for the State (and evidently NOT the State agency’s) position leads me to believe that this State agency (like many others) is much more of a federal subcontractor agency than a State Agency. As Struther Martin said in the movie Cool Hand Luke, I think that regarding the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the Governor and Legislature have “a failure to communicate”.

* State agencies are generally reluctant to identify with “shooting ranges” in these days of national and international environmental and animal rights “awareness”. Shooting Ranges are generally like Trapping and Animal Control in these regards in that they anger those out to eliminate hunting and fishing and do things like loose free-roaming buffalo on rural Americans.

* Wolves and grizzlies and like critters are loosed on a rural populace by federal bureaucrats and then “turned over” to state (is it their governments or one of these “independent” agencies???) management. This federally mandated management of these animals is expensive and the federal bureaucrats and State bureaucrats WANT FULL CONTROL OF ALL STATE FUNDS AND PRIORITIES WITHOUT ANY ACCOUNTABILITY TO STATE GOVERNMENTS OR STATE TAXPAYERS. This is not unrelated to these federal PR bureaucrats and State agency bureaucrats colluding to do just that with STATE LICENSE FUNDING EXPENDITURES AND PRIORITIES.

* Federal bureaucrats these days accrue significant political and career benefits from enacting ways to further restrict gun uses, gun availability and ammunition supplies. Examples are – The secret negotiations by the State Department under Clinton and Kerry to negotiate a UN Small Arms Treaty that will shrink or abolish the 2nd Amendment. The Fast and Furious federal gun-running scheme into Mexico intended to create justification for more gun control that has never been explained. Closure by EPA of the last lead smelter in the US. Continuous statements by the President and Attorney General about the need to register and confiscate guns, etc……. Is it not possible that any federal bureaucrats that can establish a PRECEDENT to abolish any vestige of State control of their state wildlife agency, or their state wildlife license revenue, or such agency’s activities, AND SIMULTANEOUSLY POINT THE WAY ON HOW TO STOP AND REVERSE THE GROWTH OF SHOOTING RANGES might not at least be in line for a bonus and maybe an eventual promotion and all that portends? I do not doubt that this is involved in this whole tug of war between the government of Montana on the one hand and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks & US Fish and Wildlife Service “partners” on the other.

Consider YOUR State wildlife agency. It gets Excise Taxes and dances to a federal tune that is steadily pushing YOU and YOUR STATE GOVERNMENT out of the picture. If Montana succumbs here; whether because of State employees that serve Washington and not your state government or because of federal bureaucrats that have silenced your organizations and are working so closely with your enemies that you won’t see what is happening until it is too late is immaterial: you will be like that lonesome German noted in the early 1940’s, “when they came for me, no one was there”. Truly we are all Montanans in these regards.

Allow me two analogies: State wildlife agencies are becoming like that famous horse Lincoln once noted was bucking and got his foot caught in the stirrup and his rider (the Governor, Legislature and people of the state) leaned over and told him if he will just calm down, “I will get off so you can get up”.

The federal agencies (US Fish and Wildlife Service with its ESA and easement schemes with radicals; the US Forest Service with its Roadless/Wilderness/Grazing Shutdowns/Logging & Timber Management Elimination; BLM with its Bundy Fiascoes and selective use and management shutdowns; and National Park Service with its Viewsheds/Historic Zones/Total anti-natural resource management and use mission) are like Oscar Wilde’s famous Picture of Dorian Gray. He was an outwardly handsome and wealthy man that made a pact with the devil that his secret life of corruption and vice would only be noted on a painting of himself hidden away in his attic while he stayed forever young and spotless. Just as Dorian met an horrific end, so too will these federal agencies that are operating on a no longer real image that was once true but any longer simply conceals an existence of harm to people and abuse of power that will eventually end in something much worse than anyone imagines.

Jim Beers
17 February 2015

If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks.
Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting. You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to: jimbeers7@comcast.net

Winter Ticks Haven’t Figured Out Where to Ambush the Moose

Nathan Terriault has a “Special to the Bangor Daily News” about his belief that perhaps the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) should be providing more moose permits rather than fewer. Much of this is substantiated by the notion that there are too many moose – at least in some places – and as a result the moose population is not healthy, i.e. malnourished and carrying hundreds and thousands of winter ticks making the moose anemic and susceptible to exposure and predation. I might add that moose are also carrying or infected with what MDIFW likes to call “lungworm” but what I would call Hydatid cysts from the Echinococcus granulosus eggs carried by wild canines. These cysts also make the moose more susceptible to escaping or fleeing from harm by predators.

Terriault’s piece is well thought out and I would have to agree with much of what he is saying, as I have recently written questioning whether MDIFW is attempting to grow and perpetuate too many moose due to social demands rather than devising desired populations based on scientific evidence.

However, I have to snickeringly take issue with one comment that was made, not so much as a means of correcting Mr. Terriault but to make sure that readers better and more accurately understand about winter ticks. Terriault writes:

Forestry practices, such as clearcutting and strip cutting, concentrates cover for moose and funnels animals through areas where ticks lie in wait for host animals.

This is true information but it might lead some to think that the ticks have actually figured out exactly where these moose “funnel” and go there and wait; much the same way large predators do. A tick’s life cycle, part of which begins when the ticks (female) drop from the moose in Spring. From that point, wherever the drop occurred, the tick larvae and the tick do not travel any great distances – by human standards – and these drop zones are not necessarily within one of these “funnel” corridors. In the late Summer and early Fall, the tick climbs vegetation wherever they are and they wait, hoping to catch a ride on a passing moose. If they don’t catch a ride, they die. It’s that simple.

From the moment a tick attaches itself to a moose, where that tick ends up next Spring, to drop and begin the cycle all over again, is dependent upon the travels of the moose. Understand as well that the time in which ticks are climbing vegetation looking for a free ride happens to fairly closely coincide with the moose mating season, when moose travel the most due to increased activity. Where the tick is picked up by a moose and then dropped in the Spring could be some distance away, even by human standards.

It shouldn’t be thought that moose are carrying more ticks because ticks are moving into the regions where moose seem to be traveling the most, although simply because of those natural actions it is possible that more ticks might be present in a travel corridor than some other random spot, but I can’t believe it would be of any significance.

I think the facts are clear, and I’ve never read any studies that suggest ticks have figured out where to go to catch a ride, that there are more ticks everywhere, because there are more moose everywhere. Therefore logic would suggest that if you reduce the number of moose, there would be less ticks and healthier moose, which is, what I think, Mr. Terriault is suggesting.

Former Maine Fish and Game Commissioner Proposes Bill to Study Winter Ticks

Sorry for not getting excited over this but this, more than likely, will prove to be nothing more than stealing away Maine taxpayer’s money for post-normal, outcome-based, new-science scientific study that will provide false and agenda-driven results. Maine should save their money and let this one pass. If I look into my crystal ball, I can predict that the results will be that climate change is causing the ticks and we need to give the Government all of our money, while at the same time giving up what rights we have left, to save the planet.

“The legislation would direct the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to conduct a study of the impact of winter ticks on Maine’s moose population, including identifying population problems due to ticks and recommending possible courses of action to address those problems.”<<<Read More>>>

Maine Moose Hunt Harvest Report 2015

In what I believe to be early, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has made available on their website, the harvest data for the 2014 moose hunt.

Please follow this link to view the report.

Maine Moose Lottery Permit Application for 2015

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife now has their website set up for users to begin the application process to get their names entered for a, sort of random, drawing to be held in Bethel, Maine on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

Can Moose Harvest Increase by Reducing Moose Density?

mooseI admit that might be a misleading question but a question that should be considered in the grand scheme of things.

In the scientific community, moose management is described as multiple-criteria decision analysis or decision-making process. In layman’s terms it means that there are a whole lot of things that can and do effect the everyday lives of moose (wildlife) making the job of managing the moose population, at times, difficult. Perhaps the easiest part of managing moose is crafting a plan or a wish list of what each fish and game department thinks they would like to have for an ideal moose population. The real difficulty comes in pulling it off. Good luck!

If it was easy to have and maintain an ideal moose herd, then professionals would decide things like density (how many per square mile), how many males there should be, how many females there ought to be and how many calves survive their first year. In addition managers would strive to have the perfect age structure, i.e. not too old, not too young, etc. Again, good luck! This job becomes that much more difficult when “multiple-criteria” that drives the need to change plans and make decisions increases.

Ideally, in states like Maine, where the moose population has grown sufficiently that the state can offer an opportunity for a moose harvest by hunters, the herd is managed and manipulated in order to provide for a harvest while at the same time making adjustments to compensate for losses in order to grow, decrease or sustain a moose population.

George Smith, an outdoor writer and political activist, has begun a three-part series on Maine’s moose. Part I is currently available. He basically says that Maine biologists don’t know enough about the state’s moose population in order to make the right decisions. In a multiple-criteria decision-making process, it can only work effectively when scientists have a grip on the multiple criteria. While it’s important to know which decisions to make for each effecting criteria, no decisions can be made, at least properly, without recognizing and understanding the multiple criteria that effects the moose population.

I’m not sure that I could do a grocery list of multiple criteria justice but I’ll give it a stab. Here’s some of the criteria and realities that moose managers must deal with before making decisions on how to implement the right changes in order to make compensation:
1. Winter severity
2. Total mortality rates (and with this should be a good understanding of where all mortality comes from)
3. Virus and diseases
4. Predation
5. Habitat
6. Calf recruitment
7. Sex ratios
8. Age structure
9. Harvest data
10. And all the rest!

Maine is in the middle of a 5-year study on moose, in which it is hoped to gain a better understanding of moose populations and what is killing off the moose. Some think Maine’s moose herd is being decimated by winter ticks, combined with predation on calves by wolf/coyote hybrids in winter and bears in spring.

Historically, Maine has always had moose but it was not until after sufficient protections were place on them did they recover enough that in 1980 the state began it’s first regulated and limited moose hunt in many, many years. However, even at that time, managers didn’t know exactly how many moose Maine had…enough I guess.

Since that time and it seemed for many years, we were told Maine had 20,000 moose, or maybe at times 25,000 or 30,000 moose. Recently, Lee Kantar, Maine head moose biologist, made the assessment that the state had 75,000. But the number of hunting permits allocated hasn’t really changed a lot over the years falling somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 permits. This has ruffled the feathers of some calling for dramatic increases in moose permits. Kantar proceeds with the utmost of caution.

It appears that Maine’s moose are being hampered by winter ticks. The second year of this moose study showed that ticks were responsible for killing a lot of calves throughout the winter – enough so that recruitment dropped to below 30%, an indication that a continuation of this recruitment percentage would begin to reduce the moose population and skew the age structure.

So, while some call for increases in moose permits because the official number remains at 75,000, is this the right thing to do?

Winter ticks are one of those “multiple criteria” things. Maine scientists must get a handle on this in order to deal with it in the right manner. We do know that ticks have always been around and reports state that the number of ticks goes up and down and it seems the majority of the discussion is focused on climate change as the culprit. I don’t completely buy into that excuse. Common sense should tell us that if moose population estimates were at all accurate, at least to a point that we agree that from 1980 until 2013 the moose herd has been growing, perhaps the real increase in winter ticks can be attributed to the increase in the moose population.

Maybe Maine is trying to grow moose in too large numbers.

In a moose study of Scandinavian moose, scientists looked at how to best compensate for losses of moose hunting opportunities, more accurately how to maintain hunters’ moose harvests, due to predators. In that study (there was no discussion about winter ticks) they presented two ways to compensate for losses in moose harvest due to predators. One was to manipulate the hunter harvest to keep moose densities high enough. The other was to change the sex structure of the herd to favor more female moose, thus producing more offspring, etc. This effort varied considerably due to changing “multiple criteria” involving the presence of predators.

Either way, the bottom line was that moose densities had to be high enough in order not to have to tell hunters they couldn’t eat moose meat.

Winter ticks are not predators in the classic sense but they might as well be a wolf, a pack of coyotes, or an ambushing bear. The result is much the same. We would have a difficult time to set traps and pay hunters and trappers to go kill ticks to compensate for moose losses, which in turn cut into hunting harvest opportunities. So what do we do about ticks?

There are two issues here as I see it. One is that I’m not sure that Maine biologists can sit by to see if their climate change is going to take care of the tick problem. If, as I suspect, the increase in winter ticks is directly related to, and maybe even an exponential factor, an increase in moose numbers, then maybe Maine needs to bring moose numbers back down. It seems to me that this is what is naturally occurring now with the increased winter kill. Perhaps if we kept numbers moderate enough in order to mitigate the tick problem, recruitment would remain strong and the result would be good or better hunting opportunities.

The second issue is about how many permits have been issued historically compared to what the moose population was. In truth, nobody knows what the moose population has been and as managers plodded along with the guesses, it appears that their issuing of permits had no negative effects on the moose population – the exception may be that because there was no money being spent to accurately count moose, the population got big enough that a tick problem broke out.

Consider the fact that wildlife biologists and environmentalists, when it’s convenient for them, like to tell us that a well-fed and healthy species population will produce more and better offspring. If there’s any truth to that claim at all, and to me it makes sense to a point, then for Maine to bring the tick problem under control, would, in the long run, at least maintain the current number of moose permits being issued and may even increase them – provided that the other “multiple criteria” don’t get out of whack.

Maine Might Reduce Moose Permits…Again

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.

65% Of Maine Moose Hunters Successful

A Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

AUGUSTA, Maine — Despite brief warm spells during both the September and October moose seasons, 65% of all moose hunters harvested a moose last season.

With 3,095 moose permits issued, 2,022 hunters were successful in getting their moose. Hunter success rates varied throughout different regions of the state with over 80 percent of the hunters getting moose in Wildlife Management Districts 3 and 5 in Aroostook County and under 10 percent of hunters getting a moose in WMDs 23 and 25 in Waldo and Knox Counties.

The 65% success rate for hunters is lower than the 73% success rate for hunters in 2013.

“Weather certainly played a factor,” said IFW’s moose biologist Lee Kantar. “Moose tend to travel less and spend more time in cover when it’s hot. Hunter effort also declines.”

Maine’s moose season is split into three segments with six-day seasons in September, October and November. Temperatures were above 80 degrees on the first day of the season in September, and despite a cool start to the October season, warmer weather in the 70s prevailed during the middle of the October season.

“We expect to see a higher success rate in September, as moose are more receptive to calling,” said Kantar. “But in WMD 3, only 79% of the hunters were successfully in September compared to 91% in October.”

Kantar also added that there are fewer moose on the landscape than in previous years.

“Looking at the survival data from our radio-collared moose last year, we know that winter ticks during the winter of 2014 had an impact on moose,” said Kantar. “It was an impact that was likely above normal, somewhat similar in its impact to a tough winter on deer.” As a result, the department decreased the number of permits available to moose hunters.

The radio-collar moose study is just one aspect of the department’s ongoing research on Maine’s moose.

IFW is currently in its fifth year of conducting aerial surveys to estimate moose abundance and population composition (composition of male/females; adults/calves). The aerial surveys provide data used to estimate the moose population and health of the herd.

During the moose hunting season, biologists also examine teeth to determine a moose’s age, measure antler spread, monitor the number of ticks a moose carries and examine ovaries in November to determine reproductive rates.

Biologists are set to recommend moose permit numbers for the fall 2015 moose season. The number of available moose permits is based upon population numbers and the composition of the moose population in wildlife management districts, as well as the population goals and objectives for that district.