The other day George Smith wrote in his column in the Bangor Daily News:
The differences between deer and moose management are fascinating. In areas of the state with few deer, we still allow unlimited harvests of bucks. But Lee [Kantar, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife head moose biologist and former head deer biologist] says any increase in the harvest of bull moose will negatively impact the quality of those bulls. Do we not care about the quality of our bucks?
This prompted me to start asking around from those that would know about this sort of thing and where I might actually get an answer. It is a complex issue where one element does not necessarily control the “quality” of bucks or bull moose. The first hurdle would be to determine what is meant by “quality”.
One might gather from this short statement, a claim made by Smith, that there appears to be a concern for preserving and/or protecting the quality of bull moose. Fine. Does there exist the same feeling toward protecting the quality of Maine’s whitetail deer buck population? I certainly can’t answer that question, only to resort to the plan that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) devises every 15 years and the most recent amendment to that plan in the Maine’s Game Plan for Deer. I will say that, while certain aspects of the plans are followed, too much of it seems to be treated as suggestions rather that actual management goals that are worked at to achieve.
In my mind there is a difference between a “quality” deer herd or even a quality buck population and “trophy” deer. Those would need to be defined. Yet, in my mind a quality deer herd would contain a desired population percentage of trophy animals.
Troubling in the statement made above is that it leaves readers second guessing what the MDIFW is thinking about growing quality bucks and/or trophy bucks. If, as Smith points out, there is unlimited take on antlered deer, even in Wildlife Management Areas where overall deer populations are low, is this a sign that there is little concern about a “quality” deer population, or a “quality” buck population, or a “trophy” deer population?
I asked Dr. Charles Kay, Wildlife Ecology, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University, about this issue. He sent me a copy of an article he wrote and was published in the November/December issue of MuleyCrazy Magazine – 2008. The article deals mostly with what is required to grow trophy mule deer, i.e. “large antlered” mule deer and Kay well points out that mule deer do not achieve maximum antler growth until 6-8 years of age.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that in Maine are we discussing “quality” deer/bucks (ideal deer populations) and/or “trophy” bucks? In addition to trophy mule deer, Kay gives us a lesson as well in how to grow and maintain quality deer populations that just might solve the concern over trophy deer. He writes:
“Based on studies of other cervids, three factors are key to growing large-antlered mule deer – genetics, nutrition and age. First and foremost is age. The deer simply must live long enough to reach their full biological potential. Bull elk, for instance, do not achieve maximum antler growth until they are 7 to 10 years old. Mule deer bucks too do not achieve maximum antler growth until they are 6 to 8 years. To have mule deer of that age, you need 60 to 80 bucks per 100 does post hunt – a figure most sportsmen can only wish they had. If your post-hunt sex ratios are in the range of 10 to 15 bucks per 100 does or less, as is the case in many mule deer herds, the chances of a deer living long enough to produce maximum antler development is between zero and non-existent.
“The only way to achieve the necessary post-hunt sex ratios and age structure is to curtail the buck harvest. [emphasis added] Point restrictions will not work: a fact that has been proven time and again. A four-point minimum antler size might appeal to hunters, but it will do absolutely nothing to produce trophy mule deer, because hunters simply shoot the first small four-point they see and few deer live long enough to reach maximum antler growth. So while point restrictions will increase the average age of the bucks harvested by a year or so, point restrictions, in and of themselves, will do nothing to produce trophy mule deer. Instead only limited-entry seasons have the potential to produce quality mule deer and then only if state game departments do not oversell the number of permits. This is usually not a problem with whitetails since virtually all the land in the Midwest, Texas and back East is privately owned. If the landowner or leasee wants to grow trophy whitetails, it is a relatively simple matter to restrict the harvest. [emphasis added] In fact, according to Dr. James Kroll, who has spent most of his career studying whitetails and who has written a 590-page book on A Practical Guide to Producing and Harvesting White-tailed Deer, it is much easier to raise a trophy whitetail than it is to kill that deer!…
“Under quality management, it is possible to produce a Boone and Crockett whitetail in as little as 3 or 4 years!…
“To produce trophy deer, the animals simply must have a year-long diet of high quality foods. Which brings us to the number one problem in rearing trophy whitetails – too many deer. If the deer population is not kept at one half, or less, of the land’s carrying capacity, the deer will simply not grow big enough to develop large antlers. That is to say, antler quality is density dependent.”
We come back to the question of why, in Maine, does it appear that an unrestricted bull moose hunt would have a negative effect on the herd and an unrestricted buck deer hunt does not?
Certainly much of Maine doesn’t fall into the category Kay wrote about that the problem with growing trophy bucks is too many deer. In many Wildlife Management Areas, overall deer populations are, not only half or less of the carrying capacity, they are near unsustainable levels. What is the buck to doe ratios, post hunt, in these areas? We dunno. It’s like pulling teeth to get the data. I’ve asked before about getting the data and….I gave up.
I would wager that if Mr. Kantar is not willing to offer suggestions to the Joint Standing Committee on what to do about winter ticks on moose, because he doesn’t have enough data, why then should we think there is enough data to know all the conditions pertaining to the moose herd that a determination can be made that killing more bull moose would have a negative effect on the herd?
And has whitetail deer hunting in Maine just become a cash cow? The process has always been that if Maine wanted to grow the population of deer in an area, just limit the number of “Any-Deer” permits. Is that still working? Does it still work in areas with very small deer numbers? If it is working, why aren’t we seeing more deer in those areas where there’s no deer and permits have been reduced? Or have they? Ah, it’s not that simple is it.
If, as Dr. Kay says, in an area where you really want to grow trophy deer, “restrict the harvest”, that certainly has been accomplished because there are so few deer to harvest. Should we then just close the deer hunting season in those areas? Or is this contrary to growing quality deer?
The carrying capacity is far below 50% in many places and the harvest is limited only through the issuance of “Any-Deer” permits because there just aren’t any deer. So then there must be other problems. Yes, there are but I don’t think it’s responsible to just keep blaming it on habitat and climate. I might buy into the habitat argument if I didn’t enter the forest where thousands of acres of prime deer habitat lay vacant. And if a warming climate was a problem, then Maine would be starting to grow too many deer and less moose and Canada lynx.
Maybe there are other problems!
It seems to me, and I might assume here that Dr. Kay would agree with me, this discussion about growing quality and/or trophy deer is dependent upon certain elements of the deer growing and maintainance equation exist in order to accomplish the tasks Kay points out. He says genetics, nutrition and age are necessary to grow quality deer. It seems Maine’s problem isn’t growing quality deer, it’s growing deer.
Maybe an examination of the Maine Antler, Skull and Trophy Club data on “quality” deer harvest in Maine over the past several years will give a better indication about growing quality and trophy deer.
It seems to me that the size of the trophy deer is diminishing slightly, but I still contend that Maine’s bigger problem is growing deer. So long as the mantra persists that it’s the climate change and the loss of habitat, Rome will keep burning.
ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine – Wildlife including deer and moose are beginning to make an appearance on northern snowmobile trails, according to a Feb. 25 snowmobile trail report issued by Caribou Parks and Recreation Department.
Read more: St. John Valley Times – Deer and moose appearing on snowmobile trails
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.
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
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.
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.
Press Release from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:
AUGUSTA, Maine — Starting next week, The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will take to the air in year two of an intensive five-year moose study that will provide a greater understanding of the health of Maine’s moose population, particularly factors that impact their survival and reproductive rates.
A trained crew that specializes in capturing and collaring large animals is utilizing a helicopter and launched nets to capture and collar female moose and calves in an area located in and around Jackman and Greenville (centered in Wildlife Management District 8).
“By radio-collaring moose and actively monitoring their movements, we can further understand the factors that can impact Maine’s moose population,” said IFW moose biologist Lee Kantar.
The radio collar study is just one component of the research that IFW conducts on moose. IFW also utilizes aerial flights to assess population and the composition of the moose 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 to determine reproductive rates.
Depending on the weather, the crew plans to start next week, and they plan to capture and then collar 3 adult female moose (cows) and 35 moose that were born this past spring (calves) with GPS collars that will track and broadcast their movements to IFW biologists.
This is the second year that the crew from Aero Tech, Inc. will work in Maine capturing and collaring moose. Aero Tech specializes in this type of capture and collaring, and is currently performing a similar job in New Hampshire. The crew, based out of New Mexico, consists of a team of four, with each having a specialized role in the process.
Prior to their arrival, Kantar and several other IFW biologists will fly and scout different areas of WMD 8 in order to locate cow-calf groups. This pre-capture scouting worked very well last year by providing GPS coordinates to Aero Tech pilots who were able to fly to these areas, and capture and collar moose with an increased efficiency that decreases their time in the air, and the number of days they fly.
Last year, the department collared 30 adult cows and 30 calves.
Once collared, the GPS-enabled collars transmit twice a day, providing biologists the ability to track moose movements. The GPS collars are expected to transmit movement signals for four years. If there is no movement for a certain period of time, the collar transmits a mortality signal, and biologists will then travel by foot to investigate the cause of death.
“Once we receive a mortality signal, we locate the dead moose within 24 hours,” said Kantar. Biologists conduct an extensive field necropsy on each moose, taking blood, tissue and fecal samples that will later be analyzed by the University of Maine-Animal Health Lab as well as other specialized diagnostic facilities,.
This is the second year of the monitoring study. Additional moose and calves will be captured and collared next year.
“This project is just one component of the Department’s multi-faceted moose management system. It provides us with another important tool to ensure we have the most relevant data needed to manage our moose population,” said Kantar.
Upon locating fresh footprints in the snow along the railroad tracks near Wilson Street, Penobscot County Deputy Ryan Allen deployed his K9, Dozer, on the track. Approximately 1.5 hours and nearly two miles later, Deputy Allen located Webb in a large piece of woods between Wilson Street and Bagaduce Road. Webb was very cold, disoriented and not dressed for the extreme cold weather. Maine Game Wardens responded with an ATV and 4-wheel drive trucks to remove Webb from the woods. Capital Ambulance transported him to St. Joseph’s Hospital to be treated for a substantially decreased core body temperature.
Lt. Dan Scott of the Maine Warden Service attributed the quick thinking and teamwork of the first responding units to saving the man’s life. Lt. Scott commented, “With temperatures hovering around zero and wind-chills near -15 below, the man would likely not have survived a night in the woods.” The Maine Warden Service reminds us that hypothermia can set in very rapidly in the extreme temperatures we have been experiencing. People should monitor themselves and especially young children for the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Anyone recreating outdoors should dress accordingly, take a friend, and tell someone where they plan to go and when they plan to return.
Found in the Stowe, Vt. Stow Today, we read: “If you want a walking Wikipedia of the moose, not to mention the threats that assail it, then Alexander is your man.
In his jam-packed office in St. Johnsbury, he has vials of moose ovaries and ticks in all life stages, boxes of jawbones and antlers, teeth and other items that he brings on show-and-tells. He has every chart imaginable, from a tally of the just-finished hunt this year — he’s counted 147 so far, about as predicted — to how many moose have been killed by hunters since seasons began in 1999: about 6,150.”
Does collecting parts and pieces make for the “best” expert on moose? Just because a person has the largest automobile junkyard in the state doesn’t make them an expert auto mechanic necessarily.
Here are some issues not being addressed honestly which renders this article without a great deal of credibility. The first claim is that Vermont’s moose is in trouble. Is it? Is the moose in trouble because the state cannot maintain enough moose to satisfy all those interested in having more moose? When fish and game departments became fish and wildlife departments and decided decisions on wildlife management would be based mostly on the social demands of the public, the moose population has shown signs of fluctuation. Because it’s in a downward trend in some places, it is easy to claim the moose is in trouble and find nonsense issues to blame it on.
This article blames the decline of moose in Vermont on three issues: Brainworm, Winter Tick and Climate Change (global warming). Global warming is really a non starter because facts show us that the “climate” hasn’t warmed for at least a decade and yet those who make money from repeating the lies about climate change, beat the drum of unsubstantiated conclusions and predictions about global warming. If we listened to the “experts” we would have all been dead by now. It’s time to move on. Most of the world is very sick and tired of the bovine excrement surrounding the idiocy of man-caused global warming.
On the same token, it’s easy to blame the presence of winter ticks on global warming. This is done, for political reasons only as it appears even the so-called experts don’t even understand the simple life-cycle of the winter tick.
Left out of the discussion of moose management is whether or not attempting to create a moose population large enough to make money from selling moose hunting licenses and satisfy the social demands of those interested in driving around in climate-controlled cars observing moose, is the best scientific approach to managing a healthy moose herd. I contend it probably is not.
A couple of short years ago Maine bragged that their moose population might exceed 90,000; like that was a good thing. Is Maine really capable of sustaining 90,000 moose? Evidently not, because all indications are that the moose has realized significant die-offs, mostly due to winter ticks. Don’t any of these biologists think that perhaps 90,000 moose are too many and due to that fact alone, contributed to and/or is 100% responsible for the overwhelming presence of winter ticks? This in turn, created that “balance” few in this world understand is how Mother Nature does things. Isn’t this Biology 101? Too many animals breeds disease. Disease causes die-offs. If all things remained the same, except the outbreak of winter ticks continued to kill moose, doesn’t it make sense that once the moose are substantially reduced, we will be witness to a die-off of winter ticks? Is so, moose numbers will return and if allowed to return to the same high numbers, the up and down, unstable cycle of population changes will persist.
What good are we doing our moose populations when we parrot the nonsense of global warming and blame everything on this fake occurrence? In addition, because real science has been tossed out the window, in exchange for Post-Normal, or Romance science, states with moose might be attempting to provide more moose than the complete carrying capacity will allow. After all, carrying capacity is more than just food and forests.
So long as these romance writers, writing about romance scientists, persists, we cannot expect any substantial, effective and long lasting, real knowledge to be gained that creates a positive environment for real wildlife management.
“FAIRBANKS — For the second year in a row, state wildlife biologists have killed dozens of bears in part of the western Interior as part of a plan to increase the number of moose available for subsistence hunters in the area.
Biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks shot and killed 64 bears — 54 blacks and 10 grizzlies — from a helicopter along the Kuskokwim River near the village of Sleetmute, which is located about 400 miles southwest of Fairbanks.”<<<Read More>>>