February 9, 2023

Maine’s Mangled Moose Management

Most every morning I get up and somewhere along the line I end up asking myself why I see things differently than others. I don’t know half the time if it’s a curse or a blessing.

Once I had confidence that when Maine finished their moose study program, they would be able to come up with sensible, scientific conclusions that would help in making decisions about how to responsibly and scientifically take care of the state’s moose herd. The confidence has ebbed to something just short of doubtfulness, but there is still a lot of time left to get things right. Let’s hope.

Yesterday, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MIDFW), in their Twitter Updates, provided a link to “Searching for Maine’s Moose Calves.” In that report, the author wrote: “In late April, wildlife biologists begin to closely examine the daily locations of each adult cow to determine whether or not they have localized into one small area.  A cow that localizes into a small area at this point of the spring usually means that she has given birth to a calf or calves.  Once this determination has been made, biologists use tracking (or telemetry) equipment to visit this site when she is present to obtain a visual on her, and hopefully a calf or two at her side.”

It is also written that “it is important to understand the productivity of the population to guide management decisions.”

What is not written is an explanation as to how long it takes from when biologists think they have discovered that moose have “localized into one small area,” and when calving occurs. We also are not told how long it takes after the so-called localization of the moose before biologists get to an area to “obtain a visual” on the cow moose, in which they “hopefully” will find a calf or two. (Note – Vaginal implants are now available that will signal researchers the exact moment a birth has occurred.)

It appears that Maine’s focus, also heavily trumped up by the Media and their directive to promote “climate change,” i.e. global warming, is on death of moose by ticks – and of course the growth of ticks, they repeat, is caused by global warming. This focus deflects attention away from other causes of death and/or the cause of a dwindling moose population.

We know that predators attack and kill newly born moose calves, from within minutes to hours of birth. Predators such as bear, coyote/wolf, bobcat and lynx, learn where moose “localize.” They have also learned where deer go to fawn. These same predators can smell the birth of moose and deer and beeline for a fresh, hot meal.

Which brings me to my question of concern. Biologists may or may not assume an adult cow moose is pregnant. The cow moose that they have collared should give them that information. Moose without collars, it’s a guess. Can a biologist, under these techniques actually obtain accurate data to know the moose calf survival rate within the first week, or before biologists have made their way into the woods in hopes to find the collared moose with a calf or two?

Recently we learned that in studies of coyote behavior and predation on deer, that data being collected was not necessarily giving accurate conclusions because there was no way to determine how many fawns were preyed upon and killed immediately after birth, up until the time biologists could fit the small deer with collars. Once a collar is attached, tracking the animal is certainly easier. Without a collar, not so much. Are we possibly seeing the same thing with Maine and New Hampshire’s moose study? And their deer study? If so, will this give them inaccurate and/or misleading information causing bad decisions to be made?

According to information provided by George Smith in the Bangor Daily News, “In the winters of 2014 and 2015, 73% and 60% of Maine’s collared moose calves, respectively, died from ticks.” Do we know how many of the newly born moose calves died from other causes between birth and getting collared?

It’s important when conducting studies to examine completely, and with open scientific minds, to understand all that is going on. Anything short of that is a waste of time and resources. Yes, it’s important to try to understand winter ticks and their effects on moose, but if that is what the entire focus is going to be on, then all that might be accomplished is to better understand the tick. However, other information in Smith’s report doesn’t offer much hope for a good result.

There was one encouraging thing I read in this report, that the AP quoted one New Hampshire biologist who said, “As our moose numbers decline, the ticks will decline.” I’ve harped on that subject for quite a long time now. Maybe some are beginning to listen?

But, don’t get too excited. Biologists, along with the help of the Media, continue to brow-beat people over the effects of a fake “global warming.” It also shows that, like parrots, it is ignorantly repeated that a warming climate exacerbates the winter tick population. Instead of doing some research to learn about the winter tick and how weather and climate effect it, it’s much easier to just “rinse and repeat” the same mouthful of garbage forced into it.

In the meantime, Maine has decided that it’s more important to keep growing more and more moose…well, at least until someone figures it out: “If we just took the (dead moose) results of last year, we would have concerns. And we do have concerns, but it’s going to take some time.” 

Even though it has finally been suggested that winter ticks will not go away, substantially, until the moose population is reduced enough to effect the necessary change. The way I see it, Maine can dither, pretending they can grow enough moose to make money from selling hunting permits and keep the moose gawkers happy, or they can decide to manage a healthy moose herd. One way or another, the moose herd will be reduced. Either disease and ticks will kill them or MDIFW could call for a drastic reduction in the moose herd, not by reducing moose hunting permits, but by increasing them – perhaps doubling and tripling – maybe set a goal to reduce the herd to one-half, then open a season for all Maine residents until the quota is obtained. Of course it would be helpful if Maine had a firm grip on what the population is now, along with the perpetuating tick epidemic, then they could more easily derive a target population, relatively tick free, while at the same time feeding the large predators, which in turns grows their numbers too high.

And, environmentalist keep repeating the lie that the North American Model of Wildlife Management doesn’t work anymore. The further away from the Model we get, the more serious problems arise.





Maine Fish and Game’s Comments to USFWS on Process of Incidental Take Permit for Canada Lynx

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Comments on the Issuance of a 10(a)(1)(B) Permit for the Incidental Take of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)

Associated with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Incidental Take Plan for Maine’s Regulated Trapping Program

Prepared by
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

6 February 2012

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) shares concern and responsibility for maintaining a sustainable population of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in Maine with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). IFW’s commitment to lynx conservation is longstanding and pre-dates the federal listing of lynx as a Threatened Species under the federal Endangered Species Act. This includes closing the hunting and trapping seasons and ending the bounty on lynx in 1967, considering whether lynx warranted endangered or threatened status under Maine’s Endangered Species Act as early as the mid-1980s, conducting systematic snow-track surveys for lynx beginning in 1994, and collaborating with the USFWS in 1998 to start a lynx radiotelemetry project in Maine.

Our Department’s 12-year radiotelemetry study and the companion lynx and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) studies at the University of Maine provided the USFWS with the best data on lynx demographics and habitat use in the eastern US. Although changes in forest management practices and climate change add to the uncertainty in predicting future lynx population trends, IFW will continue to work with the USFWS for the conservation of lynx. IFW’s Incidental Take Plan is only one aspect of our agency’s commitment to lynx conservation and management.

In the USFWS’ 2000 Determination of Status for the Canada Lynx (pp 16078-16079), the Service states, “Although we are concerned about the loss of lynx that are incidentally captured, we have no information to indicate that the loss of these individuals has negatively affected the overall ability of the contiguous United States DPS to persist. Additionally, we believe that lynx have been incidentally trapped throughout the past, and still they persist throughout most of their historic range.” We submit that the persistence of lynx in Maine, through periods of poor habitat and relatively heavy furbearer trapping pressure, and the subsequent growth of the lynx population in Maine, underscores the Service’s conclusion in their 2000 listing document — the incidental trapping of lynx has not had a detrimental effect on the lynx population.

Maine’s radiotelemetry study on lynx provided detailed information on the survival rates of lynx that were captured with foothold traps and subsequently radiocollared and monitored. During this 12-year study there were virtually no significant injuries to lynx from foothold traps, with the exception of one accidental entanglement of an anchoring chain and foothold trap which resulted in a fractured leg. While lynx incidentally caught in “killer-type” traps, such as Conibears, have a higher probability of killing or injuring a lynx, the overall risk of these traps to lynx is quite low when they are set according to regulations. Trapper effort surveys indicate that Conibears have been set for fisher and marten in northern Maine for approximately 600,000 traps nights without catching a lynx. Only Conibears that were not set according to current regulations have killed or injured lynx.

Lynx numbers have recovered in Maine while regulated trapping occurred in Maine and in abutting provinces and states. Because of the rarity of lynx sightings in Maine in the ’80s and ’90s one of the original objectives of Maine’s radiotelemetry study was to verify whether there was a breeding population of lynx in the state. Today, with an estimate of over 1,200 adult lynx in northern Maine, it is not uncommon to see lynx tracks. In addition, as of 2011, lynx were confirmed to be breeding in New Hampshire and eastern Maine. We suggest that questions regarding the impact of trapping on lynx, when lynx densities are low, can be answered by looking at the persistence of lynx in Maine over the last 50 years and the growth of their population. Throughout this period Maine trappers were actively pursuing furbearers. Trapping license sales in 1980 were more than double of what they are today, and yet lynx persisted and prospered. All evidence clearly indicates that lynx populations are compatible with a regulated furbearer trapping program.

Regulated trapping may have benefits for lynx that outweigh the negative aspect of incidental take. As referenced in Maine’s Incidental Take Plan, IFW’s radiotelemetry study determined that 50% (27/53) of natural lynx mortalities were due to predation, primarily by fisher (Martes pennanti), i.e., 17 confirmed cases and 10 cases of strong field-evidence indicating predation by fisher (manuscript in preparation). In the core of Maine’s lynx range (WMDs 1-11) the annual number of fisher taken by trappers has ranged from 523 to 1,276 from 1999 to 2010. Fisher, along with marten (Martes americana), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and coyote (Canis latrans) are the principal targets of upland trappers in Maine. Each of these species also directly or indirectly competes with lynx for prey items. Given the low mortality rate that is expected for incidentally-trapped lynx — perhaps one every 5 years — it is likely that Maine’s lynx population fairs better with trapping than without.

Although the impact of incidental trapping on the lynx population appears to be negligible, IFW will continue to be proactive and innovative with protective regulatory measures for lynx. The Department has already collaborated with Maine trappers to develop and test an exclusion device for Conibears that effectively excludes lynx but allows the capture of smaller target furbearers such as marten and fisher. If lynx continue to expand their range in Maine, IFW will continue to expand its protections spatially, as is evident in the changes to Maine’s 2011 trapping regulations.

We conclude that lynx mortalities that may result from incidental trapping will not affect the growth rate of Maine’s lynx population and that the rate of these mortalities will continue to be minimized to the maximum extent practicable. Following finalization of the Lynx Assessment and subsequent Public Working Group meetings, it is IFW’s intent to develop a Lynx Management System that will provide protocols for monitoring the lynx population. IFW plans to work with the USFWS and researchers at the University of Maine to develop best management practices for forest landowners. Forest management practices that encourage conifer regeneration favorable for snowshoe hare and lynx can be promoted on both public and private lands within the realm of Maine’s Forest Practices Act.

Public sentiment for lynx conservation in Maine is strong. During the three public meetings on Maine’s Incidental Take Plan, trappers clearly supported the conservation of lynx and demonstrated that they are the aspect of the human environment most affected by the IFW’s proposed Incidental Take Plan. The Department has and will continue to extend protections to conserve lynx in Maine. The lynx is, and will continue to be, a cherished part of Maine’s natural heritage, as dictated by the mission of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.