September 20, 2020

Ticks Killing Maine Moose

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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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