Maine should act now to save our moose

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is doing exceptional research to document the tragic deaths of our moose, killed by ticks. Moose biologist Lee Kantar gets great credit for his moose research.

Our moose population today may be as low as 50,000 (down from a possible high of 90,000), and moose hunting permits have been reduced by 50%, a devastating development for guides, sporting camps, and rural Maine towns.

DIFW recently reported that they’d located, captured, and collared 83 moose in early January in northern and western Maine. This is the final year of the agency’s five-year study of moose mortality. And the research has been challenging.

As Kantar recently told BDN outdoor reporter John Holyoke, “The thing that’s the challenge is that there’s no perfect data on how many moose are in any of those areas.” Holyoke noted another gap in the data: It’s impossible to tell how many ticks are there, either.

“Ultimately, we want to know about survival rates about cows and calves because they’re so crucial to our moose population, and whether we have growth or decline or stability,” Kantar told Holyoke. “We want to know how that’s going to work, and we want to be able to predict at least the near future so we can satisfy what the public wants. Which is, they want to see moose, they want to hunt moose, and it seems, more importantly, they want to know that our moose are healthy.”

All very important and very true. Unfortunately, despite our ability to capture and collar moose, including collecting blood, hair, and fecal samples, conducting a tick count and weighing the moose, we are apparently unable to figure out a way to keep those ticks from killing the moose.

I believe this is our next big challenge, now that we know how damaging these ticks are to our moose and our outdoor economy.
At my camp on Sourdnahunk Lake, next to Baxter Park, we used to have moose all around us. I have lots of photos of moose on our lawn, sometimes right beside our kids.

But in the last 3 years, we’ve seen just one moose there. In August, we used to see as many as a dozen moose in August in a nearby pond, eating plants. Today, I can’t find a moose in that pond in August.

I’m wondering if we could put out food stands, and spray the moose and kill the ticks when the moose approach the stands to eat. I know they do this for cattle in Texas.

I’m going to suggest that the legislature’s IFW Committee ask DIFW to research and implement an aggressive project to save our moose. There must be a way to do that.

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.