Aerial Moose Population Survey Underway

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The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is currently in the midst of conducting an Aerial Moose Census east of Moosehead lake.

AirScan, Inc. is conducting the survey. AirScan performed the first census for the department, back in April of 2001, and conducts wildlife census work for other agencies throughout the country.

"With new goals and objectives for managing the state's moose population and changing environmental conditions, accurate data on the status of the moose population is a necessity," said Commissioner Lee Perry, "with more accurate data, we can maintain a healthy population that provides enjoyment for those who hunt as well those who enjoy observing them in the wild."

Using a small airplane mounted with remote infrared sensor and a data recording device, this sensor aircraft flies a grid pattern, recording the number of moose it observes from the air. The infrared sensor is mounted on the wing of the craft and is controlled remotely by an operator seated with the pilot in the aircraft. The census is conducted during the winter when there is snow on the ground in order to maximize the efficiency of the infrared sensor by creating more of a heat signature for moose.

The cost for the survey is approximately $60,000. Monies to fund the aerial survey and a sightability correction survey come from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (25%), funded through the sale of lottery tickets, then a 75% matching grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We chose this area because it is very popular both for moose watchers and moose hunters," said Perry, "and available information suggest that the moose population in this area is lower than we would like."

Due to the high cost and the limited area that can be surveyed each year, in order to decrease the cost of keeping track of the moose population, IFW is developing a model which would require only a fraction of the state's 30 WMDs to be surveyed for moose. This model will use population estimates from a few aerial surveys, along with the number of moose seen by deer hunters, to estimate moose densities. New Hampshire Fish and Game is using a similar method to estimate moose densities in their state.

AirScan has conducted numerous wildlife surveys, including moose surveys for New Hampshire's Fish and Game Department. They currently are surveying an area east of Moosehead Lake.

AirScan is a business specializing in airborne surveillance and security. AirScan conducts maritime surveillance, ground security, wildlife surveys, research and development, and aircraft modifications and systems integration. AirScan was created in 1989 to provide airborne surveillance security for US Air Force launch facilities. They continue to remain under contract to NASA and the US Air Force in support of the space and missile programs.