On March 7, 2023

Moose hunt proposed to improve moose health

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Dept. has proposed issuing 180 moose hunting permits in Vermont’s Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) E in the northeastern corner of the state in a continued effort to reduce the impact of winter ticks on moose in that area.  

No permits are recommended for the rest of the state.

 The proposal was given initial approval by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board at its Feb. 15 meeting and is now available for public comment.

 The goal of the department’s 2023 moose harvest recommendation is to improve the health of moose in WMU-E by reducing the number of moose and thereby reducing the abundance and impact of winter ticks. 

 “Moose are abundant in WMU E with significantly higher population density than in any other part of the state,” said Nick Fortin, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s moose project leader.  “Winter ticks only thrive on moose, and higher moose densities support high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival.” 

 The Fish and Wildlife Dept. partnered with University of Vermont researchers to conduct a study of moose health and survival in WMU E.  The results of this study, in which 126 moose (36 cows, 90 calves) were fitted with GPS tracking collars, showed that chronic high winter tick loads caused the health of moose in that part of the state to be very poor.  Survival of adult moose remained relatively good, but birth rates were very low and less than half of the calves survived their first winter. 

“Research has shown that lower moose densities support relatively few winter ticks that do not impact moose populations,” said Fortin.  “Reducing moose density decreases the number of available hosts which in turn decreases the number of winter ticks on the landscape.”

 The department would issue 80 either-sex moose hunting permits and 100 antlerless moose permits in WMU-E for the moose seasons this October.  This is expected to result in a harvest of about 100 moose, or about 10% of the moose population in WMU-E. 

 “This permit recommendation represents a continued attempt to address winter tick impacts on moose in WMU-E,” added Fortin.  “Given the poor health of the moose population in that area and a clearly identified cause, we need to take action to address this issue.  Without intervention to reduce the moose population, high tick loads will continue to impact the health of moose in that region for many years.” 

“Department staff, including lead moose biologist Nick Fortin and Research Manager  Katherina Gieder, brought incredible scientific expertise to this recommendation,” said Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife Christopher Herrick.  “The proposal our board vetted and approved was informed by years of field research and sophisticated statistical analyses that have been featured in peer reviewed publications alongside results from sister efforts in Maine and New Hampshire.”

 The 2023 Moose Harvest Recommendation and information about the moose study are available on Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s website.  From the Home page, click on Hunt and then Moose.

Comments may be provided until March 31 by emailing ANR.FWPublicComment@vermont.gov.

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