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With Moose Ravaged By Winter Ticks, State Proposes Drastic Cut In Hunting Permits

Moose are falling victim to winter ticks, whose population is booming because of climate change. The state says some very limited hunting of the big animals should still be allowed.
Sandy Macys
/
Associated Press File
Moose are falling victim to winter ticks, whose population is booming because of climate change. The state says some very limited hunting of the big animals should still be allowed.

The state is proposing to drastically reduce the number of permits to hunt moose as the population continues to suffer from a parasite that has grown more abundant with climate change.

The Fish and Wildlife Department wants to cut the hunting permits to 14 this fall – down from 80 last year and 141 in 2016.

Under the proposal, hunting would be allowed only in the far northeastern part of the state. Mark Scott, director of wildlife for the department, says moose are suffering from winter ticks.

But reducing the moose population in certain areas can actually keep the ticks in check.

“Recent research among our counterparts in New Hampshire and Maine and other parts in the northern United States [shows] that if you maintain a moose density at one or even a little bit lower per square mile," he says, "[it] seems to avoid these big effects the ticks have on the moose."

The increasing problem with winter ticks is attributed to climate change, as the snow recedes earlier in the spring and the ticks survive. In some cases, tens of thousands will prey on a moose, draining its blood.

Scott says it does seem counter-intuitive that hunting should still be allowed. But he says the tick population seems to boom in areas where the moose are found at relatively higher numbers.

“So the whole idea is to try reduce herd numbers – numbers of moose – in certain areas where they’re concentrated, so we’ll have less available food for the ticks, less hosts,” he says. “And through time, hopefully, the moose will be able to fight through this battle of having a parasite like a tick that is affecting them.”

The 14 hunting permits the state is suggesting would be for bull moose only.

The reduction continues the dramatic trend over the last decade. From 2005 to 2009, about 1,000 permits – many for cows – were issued annually to reduce the moose population.

The Fish and Wildlife Board is holding a series of hearings on the proposed rule change.

One is scheduled for Wednesday evening in Windsor at the welcome center, and Thursday evening at Lake Region High School in Orleans.

The board is scheduled to vote on the rule change April 25.

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