Moose Applications Down – Moose Population May Follow

While Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife increased moose permits this year, applications declined.

DIF&W’s moose biologist Lee Kantar told legislators a year ago that he is confident Maine now has 75,000 moose. And although he opposed legislative bills calling for significant increases in permits this year, Lee did nudge up the number of permits.

Yet, surprisingly, interest in the hunt is on the decline. A total of 52,604 applications were received for moose permits in 2013, a 3 percent decline over 2012. Nonresident applicants declined most steeply, by 4 percent, dropping to 14,040. Applications from residents totaled 38,564, a 3 percent decline from the previous year.

This is, of course, a far cry from the 94,532 applications received in 1994. In that year, 74,424 residents applied for moose permits and 20,108 nonresidents.

Moose in the fog 3The department is getting close to giving every long-term unsuccessful moose lottery applicant a permit. Bill Swan, DIF&W’s Director of Licensing, tells me that 1351 Maine residents had the maximum points (30) in 2013 and 585 won permits (43.3%). That left 766 Maine residents with the maximum points in 2014. A total of 963 non-resident applicants had the maximum points and 68 won permits (7.1%). That leaves 895 non-residents with the maximum points in 2014.

Photo by Mike Jurgiewich

In Maine’s most northern county, moose are apparently a nuisance to some farmers, so the department established special hunt there. The fifth Aroostook County Controlled Moose Hunt wrapped up after a four week 2013nseason and the final tally was 31 dead moose. 50 permits were given in a 10 town area to target nuisance moose that that enjoy the broccoli and cauliflower on some farms.

Twenty moose permits were allocated to disabled veterans, 18 to guides (for their sports), and 12 to landowners with more than 80 acres in those towns. The landowners had to allow regular hunting on their farms to qualify for the special moose permits.

DIF&W reports, “The program has done a good job in reducing the financial loss that the big growers were experiencing prior to the hunt.”

The agency also reported, “One major violation. The crime involved a guide who shot three moose; two were left behind and then spoiled. Several wardens worked on this investigation and the individual who was responsible will be held accountable.”

More Moose News

This bears repeating.

“New Hampshire’s moose population has declined by 3,100, which is more than 40 percent, since 1997. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has reduced the number of moose hunting permits by 60 percent in the last five years.”

As New Hampshire goes, so goes Maine? That could be the sobering conclusion reached after reading the troubling new report, “Nowhere To Run – Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World,” published by the National Wildlife Federation. You can read the report online at

moose2006While Maine’s moose biologist Lee Kantar told the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee last year that he doesn’t know nearly enough about the health of our state’s moose herd, we need only look to our neighbors in New Hampshire to see the future. Kantar has launched a significant study to improve his knowledge of moose health – particularly related to ticks – but there is much more trouble on the horizon. Literally.

The biggest problem seems to be changes in climate. As the NWF reported, “New Hampshire’s moose are… being harmed by surging winter tick populations, associated with warmer winters.”

I’m looking at a 2008 news story, quoting Kristine Rines, moose project leader for New Hampshire’s Department of Fish and Game saying, “In the north country where we have our highest moose densities, depending on what you have for weather conditions that year, we have lost close to 70 percent of our calf crop to winter ticks and about 20 percent of the adults.”

Yikes! Lee Kantar was quoted in the same story saying, “We don’t know the extent to which it’s causing additional mortalities (in Maine). We know it’s a big factor. That’s something we’d like to look at more closely.”

It tells you a lot that it took Lee five years to round up the funding to begin to look at this critical problem more closely.

The NWF study also reported that “heat affects moose directly as summer heat stress leads to dropping weights, a fall in pregnancy rates, and increased vulnerability to predators and disease. When it gets too warm, moose typically seek shelter rather than forage for the nutritious foods needed to keep them healthy.”

Maine sharply increased moose permits again in 2013, to 4,100, the most in the 32 year history of the state’s modern moose hunt. That could be the last significant increase we’ll ever see.

The NWF report urges a number of immediate steps to address climate change, from reducing carbon pollution from power plants, to practicing “climate-smart conservation” by explicitly taking climate change into account in our wildlife and natural resource management efforts.

This raises a few questions in my mind. Should we continue to increase moose permits without knowing how many we’re losing to winter ticks? Are we already killing too many moose? Will DIF&W begin taking climate change into account in its management of moose? When?

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.