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Moose Declining in Maine and NH; Monitored for Ticks, Mortality

Jan 11, 2016 04:41 PM EST
Moose in Wyoming
Maine and New Hampshire are currently radio-collaring moose to check for mortality, health, and factors relating to winter tick infestations. Moose populations have declined in both states.
(Photo : Flickr: Dave Bezaire)

Wildlife biologists in both Maine and New Hampshire have been radio-collaring moose lately. The two states are partnering on a five-year study to learn about winter tick infestations and general mortality and productivity numbers for North America's tallest mammal. They're three years into the study, although the two states' collaboration began two years ago.

Moose are pretty big animals on a landscape: In general, an adult female weighs about 836 pounds, and an adult male weighs 1,106 pounds. In New England they're definitely in the genus Alces alces americana. But their numbers are down in several areas, including New England. In New Hampshire, the moose herd has decreased to 4,000, down from 7,000 in the late 1990s. Maine, a much larger state at 35,385 square miles of land compared with New Hampshire's 9,350 square miles, has an estimated moose population of 60,000 to 70,000. While that exceeds the number in any other state in the Lower 48, it is a decrease from a 2012 estimate of 75,000, said the article.

In general, collaring means finding the moose via helicopter or plane, going down and wrestling the tall, bony animal to the ground and putting an electronic collar on it. This tends to take skilled biologists about 10 minutes. After that, the collars send electronic transmissions twice a day for tracking, and (alas) emit a mortality signal if the moose dies, according to an article in the Portland Press-Herald

Biologists in New Hampshire will collar around 45 moose cows and calves in coming weeks. They've also collaborated with a group called Native Range from Elko, Nev. to do the work more effectively. About 150 moose will be monitored in two areas of Maine, according to an Associated Press article.

North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado and some Canadian provinces have also seen decreases in moose populations. "We all have concerns. We have all lost moose but we don't know what it means long term. Will it stabilize? If you look at Minnesota, in their boundary territory moose are doing pretty good. Saskatchewan moose are colonizing new territory. And in North Dakota, it's similar. We need to look at five to 10 years' worth of research to understand more," said Maine's moose biologist, Lee Kantar, in the Press-Herald article.

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