State wildlife biologists are recommending an 11 percent increase in moose permits this fall, with the hike affecting only hunting districts in northernmost Maine.

The proposal would increase moose permits in Maine for the third consecutive year, from 2,820 last year to 3,135 this fall. The added 315 permits would apply to Wildlife Management Districts 1 through 6, comprising the state’s core moose habitat in northern Maine.

“Moose numbers in these WMUs are stable and can accommodate additional harvest without decline,” Maine Moose Biologist Lee Kantar wrote in a letter that will be presented Thursday to the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Advisory Council at its monthly meeting. The letter, addressed to IFW Commissioner Judy Camuso, was released by the department on Wednesday.

“These recommendations are in concert with the goal of maintaining a healthy moose population while providing both hunting and viewing opportunities,” Kantar added.

Maine’s statewide moose population is estimated at 60,000, according to IFW. The state’s moose population was last estimated in a 2012 aerial survey at roughly 76,000.

The increase in permits since 2018 follow a four-year stretch when the number of permits decreased 49 percent – largely because of the winter tick parasite.

“Since 2000, Maine’s moose have become hosts to higher numbers of winter ticks – which is believed to be associated with climate change,” Kantar wrote. “The increased prevalence of these parasites can cause anemia and severe hair loss in moose, resulting in lower overwinter survival of calves and reduced recruitment rates despite moose densities remaining high in much of the state.”

In his letter, Kantar wrote that in far northern Maine in Wildlife Management Districts 1 through 6 (the area north of Moosehead Lake, Baxter State Park and Houlton), the moose population is stable; but in the western mountains in Wildlife Management Districts 7 through 9 (the area to the immediate east and west of Moosehead Lake and from Carrabassett Valley and Upton north to the Canadian border) the population is “stable to decreasing.”

In this area of western Maine, Kantar recommended seeking public comment on implementing cow permits in the future because removing female moose is “the most biologically responsible tool to mitigate tick impacts.” A September season in this area also may be considered, Kantar wrote.

Kantar did not respond Wednesday to email or phone calls seeking further information on the proposal.

The permit recommendations will be presented to the IFW Advisory Council in a conference call meeting Thursday. The council will vote on the moose hunt permit allocations in May, according to IFW.


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