Restructuring Moose Permit System Proposed

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Under a new proposal, moose hunters could see some changes in not only the number of permits issued, but also in just what type of permit they are issued. The changes would allow the department to more closely regulate the moose harvest in coming years.

If passed, hunters would be issued an antlerless moose permit or a bull only permit. The number of moose permits issued would go from 3,000 in the fall of 2002, to 2,555 permits in the fall of 2003. Currently hunters are issued an antlerless moose permit, or an any moose permit.

"The dynamics behind Maine's moose population is changing, as are the desires of the public," said Lee Perry, Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "Many factors affect the moose population such as habitat changes, parasites like lung worm, and winter ticks, but hunting mortality is the one factor that we can control. These changes are designed to provide a balance between habitat and the public's wishes, as well as provide maximum hunting and viewing opportunities."

The changes will encourage population growth in some areas, stabilize populations in others, and protect larger bulls. The number of moose permits would be lowered in western Aroostook county as well as Piscataquis, northern Penobscot, northern Franklin and northern Somerset counties. Permits numbers would stay the same in eastern and southern Aroostook, Oxford, southern Franklin, southern Penobscot and Washington counties.

Factors such as changing habitat, changing behavioral patters, and mortality due to lungworm and winters ticks could also have an impact on moose sightings. In addition to the restructuring of the permit system, the department plans to conduct an aerial infrared census of moose at regular intervals. Baseline data was gathered by an aerial census a year and a half ago, and future censuses would build on that. The department also hopes to coordinate data with New Hampshire to refine a deer hunter sighting index which has been conducted east of Moosehead Lake. Biologists and wardens will also track moose mortality.

The department is now accepting public comments on the proposal. Written comments will be accepted until December 5, 2002, and a public hearing will be held at the Department Headquarters at 284 State Street on Monday, November 25 at 6:30 p.m. The proposal comes in response to an index that shows fewer sightings by hunters for each hour hunted, as well as new moose population goals and objectives set by the public with the department.