AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine’s moose hunt, which has been limited to the northern two-thirds of the state since it was revived in the early 1980s, will expand into southern counties if a state game department proposal goes through.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin said the plan would curtail moose population growth in central Maine and expand opportunities for moose hunters.

A group that’s been studying the issue says it would also reduce car-moose collisions.

The department announced Thursday it will hold a series of public meetings in October to present its proposal to the public and solicit public comment.

The meetings will be in Thorndike, Readfield, Bridgton, Bucksport and Machias.

Earlier this year, the Legislature directed the department to study the feasibility of a moose hunt in southern Maine.

The Legislature and so-called Big Game Working Group, whose members represent moose hunting, moose viewing and activists concerned about car-moose collisions, have recommended that the department consider a moose-hunting season in southern Maine.

The department is now proposing a six-day moose-hunting season in parts of northern Kennebec, southern Oxford, southern Somerset, southern Piscataquis and southern Penobscot counties.

The expanded hunt would correspond with the October moose hunting season in other areas of western, eastern and northern Maine.

Also proposed is a six-day moose-hunting season in eastern Kennebec, Hancock, Knox and Waldo counties during either the last week of the regular firearms season in November or during the muzzleloader deer-hunting season in December.

Wildlife biologists anticipate that 100 to 300 permits will be issued in five wildlife management districts. To meet population goals, the department would allocate a combination of any-moose and antlerless-only moose permits as needed.

Before last fall’s hunt, biologists estimated the state’s moose population at about 30,000.

The number of vehicle collisions with moose along some of the state’s highways has been an ongoing concern among people living in areas with higher moose densities.

During the 2004 moose hunting season, a total of 2,895 permits were issued, an increase of 310 over the previous year. The hunt was split into two weeks and covered distinct regions.

Following the meetings to discuss the new changes, the game department will submit a report to the Legislature in early 2006.

Moose hunting regulations used to provoke lively debates in the Legislature before it turned administration of the hunt to the department effective in 2001.

AP-ES-09-15-05 1659EDT

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