July 24, 2019

Maine Hunting Camp: Why Bother?

As each year passes, I continue to ask myself, why bother? Why bother to go? There are very few deer, as has been the case for going on two decades now and nothing is changing in the woods…nothing.

I just completed my 40th year at a Maine hunting camp – the same family hunting camp I have written about for many years. I saw nothing – Okay, I saw three partridge and a woodpecker on my camp bird feeder.

This morning I was reading The Gun Nut at Field and Stream. He had been in Wyoming on a whitetail deer hunt where he took a 12-point, 200-pound buck. He writes, “At the moment I pulled the trigger, there were six other bucks in the field.”

Then he wrote, “Then I went to Maine, and spent 5 ½ days in an elevated stand waiting for a whitetail. I was in the stand from 5:45 until 4:30, and the only thing I saw the whole time was a coyote, whose furtive existence I terminated. Our party was 15 people more or less, ten of whom are geezers like myself and have 50 years or so of whitetail battles in their past, so when they don’t see deer, it means there are no deer.”

For 40 years I’ve hunted the same lands and have seen it all. Excuses be damned…there just aren’t any deer and I hold out little hope that by doing nothing except wishing and hoping, anything is going to change.

The poor excuses are old to me and worthless. Putting it all together, we see that it appears deer managers don’t know what’s really going on and with each passing year, I am left wondering if they really care. Maybe they care about pensions and benefits, but the excuse making is so poor, some of us have discovered that the managers tell it both ways. Here’s a bold and ridiculous example of what I mean.

The moose population is shrinking. Even though the moose managers keep echoing the fact that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is in the middle of a multi-year moose study, we know they recognize a dwindling moose herd because they keep cutting back the number of moose permits to be issued during the lottery.

The convenient cover for poor management is winter ticks, which they hide behind by saying the increase in winter ticks is caused by (and we don’t even have to wait for it anymore) climate change. To be specific, the climate change in question happens to be warming. Wildlife managers, evidently without so much as a courtesy glance at any existing science on Demacentor albipictus (winter tick), it’s easier to copy and paste, and/or repeat, what the last guy said.

So, now, we are all supposed to fall to our knees and self-flagellate as a show of mourning for the moose and eagerly swallow the explanation of what is happening to the moose. I believe! I believe! Are you going to pass the offering plate?

Even if we pretend that a warming climate is to blame for the winter tick-caused mortality of moose, what about the whitetail deer?

Of course, all of us must realize that habitat is always a safe bet when a deer or moose manager needs to cover their assets, even though no explanation can be given as to why, if loss of habitat accounts so dearly to deer loss, there’s acres and acres of prime deer habitat where there are no deer. One would think that as habitat supposedly disappears, more and more deer would be crowded into smaller and smaller places. Such is not the case. The woods are empty…PERIOD.

If you haven’t figured out yet where I’m going here, it’s time I told you. Deer managers tell us that there are no deer because of back to back severe winters. That was like 7 or 8 years ago. Without even discussing what constitute a “severe winter,” I don’t even need a brain to figure out that if severe winters are killing off all the deer, then how can, at the same time, on the same landscape, from the same officials, they tell us warmer than normal winters are what’s causing winter ticks that kill moose? Where did you say that bridge was you wanted to sell me?

I laugh until I nearly fall out of my chair, when I hear of some calling for the State of Maine to spend gobs of money they don’t have, in order to market Maine as a destination hunting mecca. This has to be someone’s idea of a bad joke. Because I grew up in Maine and lived there for 47 years, still have a camp there and have gone to the same deer hunting camp for 40 years, I go back each Fall. Each year it’s harder and harder to justify spending the $116.00 for a piece of paper that gives me the privilege of walking in the woods. Without the connections, I would not go. I would not spend $50.00 or $20.00 to travel the 1700 miles to deer hunt in Maine.

Deer hunting in Maine is the biggest draw the state has for hunters. When they lose that, a lot of people and animals will suffer. If MDIFW actually cares about saving the species and the sport, which equals a sizable income to them and the rest of the state, something must change. MDIFW cannot continue to be dictated to by the Maine Guides. Bear play a prominent roll in killing deer. There are too many bears and yet, because the guides don’t want anybody messing with their bear guiding business during the early Fall hunt, managers refuse to implement a spring bear hunt or even to double-up on bag limits.

When you combine this kind of approach to wildlife management with fear of lawsuits from animal rights perverts, there is little hope of anything changing. We see how MDIFW caves in to the public demands to have more moose to view from automobiles. When the day arrived that game managers put more emphasis on social demands than scientific fact, failure was eminent. We are now reaping that harvest.

Maine deer hunting? Why bother?

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NH Moose Hunt: So What’s the Plan?

*Editor’s Note* – In this press release from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, it says that 105 moose permits were issued for this year’s moose hunt out of 9,500 applicants.

Looking at the additional information provided, we see that the first moose hunt, in 1988, allotted 75 permits when the state estimated there were 1,600 moose. Today that estimate is 4,000 moose, with 105 permits allotted. Moose numbers have increased about 250% in that time while permits have increased around 70%.

One might wonder why so few permits for 4,000 moose. I would imagine there is a myriad of excuses but one question I have, which is the same question I’ve had for Maine, is if the fish and wildlife departments are trying to grow too many moose? I don’t attribute tick increase and moose mortality to global warming. I attribute it to too many moose.

I think it is time for all departments to reconsider their moose population goals. Stop fussing over whether or not people want to “view” more moose and do what’s best for a healthy moose herd.

The moose hunt has been an annual event in New Hampshire for more than twenty years. The state’s first modern-day moose hunt took place in 1988, with 75 permits issued in the North Country.  At that time, New Hampshire was home to about 1,600 moose. Today, New Hampshire has about 4,000 moose.

Source: NH Moose Hunt Is October 17-25, 2015

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Outdoors in Maine: Managing moose numbers best left to pros

*Editor’s Note* – Management of moose is the job of wildlife “pros.” However, not all wildlife pros know what they are doing and have agendas far and beyond “the best available science,” and sometimes even the rule of law. Therefore, we need watchdogs to keep a close eye on their every move, questioning those things that should be questioned.

The author of this piece (linked to below) tells of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) responsibility and legal obligations to manage moose for viewers and hunters. Managing any animal for the purpose of providing viewing opportunities is a non scientific event proving only to provide management complications for healthy populations. The North American Model, i.e. managing game for surplus harvest, (taking advantage of our God-given resource) has a proven scientific track record while providing a healthy resource.

As the author points out, it appears that attempting to manage the number of moose for viewing and hunting is warring against each other.

Something is wrong as far as I can see things. Hunters are restricted and the number of moose permits available to hunters rise and fall according to how MDIFW determines a need for population controls within Wildlife Management Districts (WMD). There is seldom any complaining by hunters for this, although sometimes we question the reasoning behind certain decisions. At the same time, we are seeing where people are demanding that hunters be short-changed in opportunities to harvest moose simply because of their demands for more viewing opportunities. I believe that what we have witnessed is MDIFW deciding to forego scientific moose management, according to the moose management plans, in order to placate the selfish desires of those riding around in cars hoping to see moose without any effort.

If it is proven, or if anyone is willing to connect the dots, that increasing moose populations to satisfy the social demands of viewers, is exacerbating the tick problem killing moose and spreading disease, this is something that needs to be seriously addressed.

Hunters would be cut off if management demands showed the need. The same much apply to moose watchers.

As Kantar will tell you, he and the Fish and Wildlife Department are obligated by law and tradition to safeguard the moose resource, for moose viewers as well as moose hunters. Ironically, it is possible that an excess of moose in Maine may be exacerbating the moose tick infestations that have taken a lot of young moose.

Source: Outdoors in Maine: Managing moose numbers best left to pros | Sun Journal

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Maine Moose Herd in Decline

Maybe more hunters and outdoor people will get sick and tired of the same old crap sandwich that the media doles out and begin asking for facts, instead of fiction, from the media and outdoor biologists.

In this linked-to article, complete with video, take note that Maine’s head moose biologist says nothing about a warming climate, and yet the news agency reporting cannot get through their report without suggesting to its viewers that any perceived moose problems in Maine are the result of moose ticks, caused by global warming.

The other disturbing item in this news account is that in what viewers were presented, there was also no mention of anything other than ticks that are killing the moose, specifically predators!

One last disgusting comment that can be heard is how damned important it is that Maine manages it’s moose population in order to keep those who want to see a moose, happy. Is there ANY consideration that that effort might be part or even all of the cause for spikes in ticks and other diseases? ANY? Of course not! It’s easier to blame a fake global warming scam. It’s a convenient excuse for everything and all things inept and corrupt.

Maine is in the middle of a moose study. From the information that I read, so far, it appears that Lee Kantar, Maine’s lead moose biologist, has kept a pretty good head in this game, and seems to be not eager to draw any conclusions, yet. That may be a good sign. It is imperative that real science, minus politics and lobbying pressures stay out of this study. While I hope that Maine becomes the first state to actually use real science to come to accurate conclusions, I’m not laying down any money that they will.

The moose is an important symbol of Maine. It’s on the state seal. It draws tens of thousands of tourists to be

Source: Maine Moose Herd in Decline

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Unfortunately, Bill to Study Impact of Ticks Moves Forward

LD134 is a proposed bill requiring the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to:

…conduct a study of the impact of winter ticks on the State’s moose population, including identifying any problems for the moose population created by the ticks and recommending possible courses of action, if any, to address those problems.

I say that it is unfortunate the bill has been moved forward because I don’t think that it is necessary to study something that others have studied and that Maine already knows – ticks are killing moose. An ongoing moose study has revealed the number of cow and calf moose that have been killed because of winter ticks. Maine knows ticks are killing moose. So why spend the money on it? It makes little sense. But then again, today’s politicians were weened on forming study groups and spending valuable resources on anything they don’t want to deal with.

What is about as clear as mud in this proposal is that part that reads, “identifying any problems for the moose population created by the ticks and recommending possible courses of action.”

The identity of a problem with the moose population has already been established – ticks kill moose. So, what would be the course of action to stop ticks from killing moose? If the focus of this study is on whether or not ticks kill moose and if so how much, then how can any course of action be recommended to solve the problem if they don’t know what caused the problem of ticks?

Excuse me for thinking rationally and not as a friggin politician. What a waste!

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Is Maine Going in the Wrong Direction With Moose Harvest Plans?

mooseI have questioned whether the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) should be reducing moose densities rather than taking efforts to keep population levels where they are or even considering increasing them. This question, from my perspective, is based mostly on whether or not the objectives created by MDIFW for moose population density goals within categorized Wildlife Management Districts (WMD), is in the best interest of the health of the moose herd.

In an article by the Associated Press, it said that Maine plans to reduce moose permits for this year’s coming moose hunt to, “the fewest number in 12 years and a reduction of nearly 10 percent over last year.”

In addition, the article quotes Lee Kantar, MDIFW head moose biologist, as saying, “We have to be cautious. Coming out of this winter, we’re already seeing less of an effect [from ticks].”

This, on the surface, would appear to be the prudent and responsible thing to do. But perhaps we first need to ask if Maine’s present moose population is too high.

While Maine is undergoing moose studies and aerial count surveys, the guesstimation on the moose population in the last 3 or 4 years has run from a high of 90,000 to a more conservative estimate of around 75,000. This same article, referenced to above, states that Maine officials currently estimate the population at around 60,000 to 70,000.

It is my understanding that MDIFW will be or perhaps they already have, begun work on a new moose management plan. The current one is outdated and appears to have not been adhered to. For example, the current assessment states that in 1999, the time the assessment was done (only 16 years old but we can gather some valuable information from this), the estimated moose population in the state was 29,000. At that level, MDIFW assessed the population densities for each of the WMDs. Densities seemed to range anywhere from 0.8 moose per square mile (WMD 10, 11, 19 and part of 18) to a high of 3.4 moose per square mile (WMDs 9 and 14).

In examining each of the assessments, it appears that all of the zones where labeled as being at least half the estimated carrying capacity (the number of moose that habitat could handle). Under ideal conditions, and in some areas, the report states that moose could be as high in density as 5.6 moose per square mile.

If the moose population estimate at 75,000 was accurate, then that puts it at approximately 2.6 times the 29,000 estimate of 1999. If all things were relative, simple math says that moose must be well above carrying capacity, at least in some areas.

The Moose Management System plan calls for a recommended goal of moose density at 55% – 65% of carrying capacity (K). If the 1999 objectives were even close to reality, Maine is certainly managing moose populations at far greater than 55% – 65% of carrying capacity. These estimations calculated at the time were for both moose density and carrying capacity.

Granted, new science brings changes to goals and management strategies, but these numbers sure leave some of us scratching our heads wondering what was going on and still is.

By the way, it should be noted that in these reports that I have referred to, it was estimated that the moose populations were not expected to grow over the next 10 years. What happened? Either the 1999 estimates were so far off they were worthless, or the calculation used to model the population trends for moose was flawed – as were perhaps the carrying capacity.

So, we come back to the same question as to whether Maine is attempting to grow and manage too many moose? In the management plan, it is stated that one of the two major considerations being taken in determining at what level the population of moose should be, is demands by the viewing public. While this activity might be exciting to the viewers and offers guides and others to pocket some extra cash, is manipulating moose densities to a level high enough to keep moose watchers happy a scientific and prudent thing to do?

Perhaps it is time to consider other factors when determining at what level to target moose populations. If 29,000 moose in 1999 were somewhere just slightly less than the 55% – 65% of carrying capacity (as estimated), what, then, is 75,000 moose doing to the moose and the state?

I visited the New Hampshire fish and wildlife website to see what they were trying to do with their population. They presently are at a crossroad of determining what to do, i.e. should they have a moose hunt at all because of population reductions.

New Hampshire’s most densely populated moose area is in the Connecticut Lakes region – 2.23 moose per square mile. In 1994, 3.12 moose per square mile was considered above carrying capacity. And, New Hampshire also has a tick problem. Are these related?

While some seem to just be puzzled by this confounded tick problem, I am wondering just how puzzled some scientists are. Maybe this is a good opportunity to get some of the grant money to do more studies? In digging through New Hampshire’s Moose Assessment, and found this bit of a jewel:

Musante (2006) has shown that winter tick is our greatest mortality influence and our monitoring programs have revealed that it is ubiquitous in time and area in the northern regions. Scarpitti (2006) and Bergeron (2011) have suggested that available browse does not seem to [be] an issue in the northern regions although actual browse productivity studies were not conducted. Both Scarpitti (2006) and Bergeron (2011) also indicated that tick loads alone could influence body weight and productivity as did Garner (1993). This means that in areas where the moose population is large enough to support ticks, the Central region and northward, we have lost a relatively easy method of using reproductive output to measure where we are in relationship to K as defined by food availability. Winter tick is now felt to be the biggest influence on pregnancy rates and weights of yearlings and adults. As such, it is now a measure of the populations relationship to K as defined by levels of animals that can be supported without severe adverse impacts from parasitism. (emboldening added)

This statement clearly admits that first, there must be a population of moose large enough to support ticks, and second, that in determining at what density moose should be in relation to carrying capacity, it must be considered the impact of ticks (parasitism).

Maine has decided to be “cautious” in not reducing moose numbers lower than the current estimate of 70,000 (or in order to grow more moose?) Is MDIFW considering the two things above that I just mentioned? By all accounts, Maine certainly has a large enough moose population to support a tick infestation. But is MDIFW considering that perhaps the population is too high and is only exacerbating the tick problem?

Somebody has to make a decision on this because in all honesty I don’t think we can rely on global warming or global cooling to cure the tick problem.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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