With a total of 3,725 permits allocated by the department, the success rate of 78 percent was 12 percentage points higher than the success rate last year. Game officials said Friday that outstanding fall conditions, including cool temperatures that keep moose on the move, were a factor in making this year’s hunt successful.
Maine’s moose population is estimated by the game department at 76,000, a dramatic increase from the 1980s when it was thought to be closer to 30,000. The moose herd had been nearly wiped out by the early 1900s due to more than a century of market hunting. But the population rebounded with controls on moose hunting and forestry practices, notably clearcutting, that set the stage for a resurgence. Game officials said clearcutting in effect created giant salad bowls for the lumbering animals to feast in.
In 1980, Maine’s moose hunt was revived experimentally following a 45-year hiatus. It’s been held each year since 1982 and as the population has grown, so have the length and geographical extent of the annual hunt. A 1983 referendum to ban moose hunting failed.
During the 2012 season, hunters registered 11 bulls, all taken in the far north, weighing more than 1,000 pounds, including one with antlers measuring 66 inches. A total of 17 bulls recorded antler spreads in excess of 60 inches.
To learn more about the moose population, biologists obtained a tooth from animals killed during the season and in some wildlife management districts collected female moose ovaries. The ages of moose taken during the season are posted at http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/moose_age.htm .