Outdoors in Maine: Moose lottery now open; fewer permits being issued

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The application process for fall moose hunting permits has begun. Online applicants have until May 16th to apply for a moose permit. Mailed applications must be postmarked no later than April 1st. Possession of a current big game hunting license is not required to apply. Applicants only need to be eligible to obtain a big game hunting license by the opening day of the moose season. The online place to get further information and applications is: www.mefishwildlife.com. The fee for Maine residents is $15.00.

This year 2,140 permits will be issued. This is 675 less than last year. According to outdoor writer George Smith, all of the permit reductions will come in five of the state’s 29 wildlife management districts.

Many sportsmen are asking questions about what is going on out there in the moose woods? Why do the permit numbers go down every year? Why is the harvest success rate dropping. Why are we seeing fewer moose than previous decades? Why are fewer hunters applying for permits?

Some of the answers are obvious, some not so obvious.

Fewer moose means fewer permits, which means reduced harvests. The reduction in harvest success rates may be explained by two things: smarter moose, fewer large clear cuts, which have resulted in reduced visibility in the woods.

Increasingly, sportsmen – worried about Maine’s declining moose numbers – are calling for the Department to drastically curtail the issuance of cow permits to hunters. But hear this: Lee Kantar, Maine’s moose research biologist, says, “Hunting mortality, including cow harvest makes up a tiny sliver of all causes of annual mortality. The driver is continued low reproduction and calf losses, which is primarily driven by winter ticks. The harvest of cow moose is not the problem.”

Maine has far fewer moose in the woods today than it had back in the 90s. Although our population statistics on moose were not as reliable back then, Kantar is convinced that we probably had 100,000 moose in the woods in those heydays. Today, he believes that our moose herd numbers somewhere in the neighborhood of 65,000.

Without the clear cuts, moose don’t have the forage base they once enjoyed. Yet, according to Kantar, the moose that are surviving seem to be thriving with once critical exception. Reproductive rates for cows has substantially declined. Kantar says, “This suggests either a problem with habitat, moose densities, parasites (winter ticks) or a combination of all.”

The good news is that answers to these complex but important questions may be forthcoming as a result of an ongoing moose study being conducted by Kantar and his regional biologists. There are 146 moose now sporting GPS collars. The monitoring of these animals, along with Kantar’s winter aerial census of moose numbers, is sure to improve the state’s capacity to manage its majestic moose, for viewing and for hunting.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has three books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook”, “Backtrack.” And his latest “The Maine Angler’s Logbook.” Online purchase information is available at ww.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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