New Hampshire looks to scale back moose hunts

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A 650 lb. 51.5 3 year old bull taken in 2010 in New Hampshire's woods. Photo by NHFG

(A 650 lb. 51.5 3 year old bull taken in 2010 in New Hampshire's woods. Photo by NHFG)

After a century of declining moose numbers, the state reversed the downward spiral in the population of these massive beasts to the point that a limited season was able to reopen in 1988. Now, due ironically to increasing populations and encroachment of deer into traditional moose areas, the state could soon scale back on the harvest-- even eliminating the hunt in some areas.

In the latest management plan, state conservation officials note that moose numbers are not where they should be saying, "With the exception of the Connecticut Lakes region, all regions are currently below objectives set in the 2006-2015 Plan and the statewide population is currently estimated to be 4,000."

For reference, the herd size just a decade ago was nearly twice that size.

The reasons given by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department for these weak figures are parasites. Specifically the winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) and brainworm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis).

The first is on the rise due to the density of the population itself while the second are pinned to whitetail deer passing it in their droppings, which the moose ingest as they forage. The two problems are area specific with the worms being an issue south of the White Mountains where deer are crowding out moose, and ticks, spread by moose themselves, the rub up north.

Further, these numbers in many areas are impacted by car strikes. According to numbers provided by NHFG, in the past decade there have been averages of 190 moose vehicle collisions per year annum on New Hampshire roads and highways, many of which happen near public viewing areas.

"This is a catch 22 situation as the place people are used to seeing moose, in salt licks near the side of the road, is the place where moose/vehicle accidents are most likely to occur," note the management plan.

The solution?

Decreasing the number of permits even more to the point where some management areas are off limits altogether. There has already been a marked decline over the past several years in tags issued, dropping from 675 in 2007 to 128  in last year's lottery as reported by New Hampshire Public Radio. Still, its higher than the inaugural 75 issued nearly three decades ago when the season first kicked off.

Of the six state regions as defined by NHFG, one, the Southwest could be cutoff while at least two others are on the bubble. The goal for the state is to keep the current population healthy, with average yearling cows dressing out at 440-pounds and adults over 550 with a 40/60 mix of bulls to cows.

An open house will be held at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord on April 22, 2015 to discuss draft species plans between state biologists and the public.