Unveiling the Uncertainty Behind NH Moose

The status of New Hampshire’s moose population has been getting a great deal of attention lately, as public awareness grows regarding the impact of winter tick and other challenges facing moose populations across the country. While New Hampshire’s regional moose populations are indeed facing some serious threats, they are not on the verge of disappearing from the Granite State landscape, says longtime moose biologist Kristine Rines of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Many factors affect New Hampshire’s moose population, and new research has been initiated this year to get more concrete information on exactly what is happening. To help set the record straight, the Department posed a series of questions to Rines about the future of our moose, one of the state’s most iconic wildlife species.

Are moose about to disappear from the New Hampshire landscape?

Rines: In the short term no; in the long-term, we don’t know. However, many of the numbers I’ve seen reported recently on the moose population have been incorrect. The peak population for moose in New Hampshire was in about 1996, when we had 7,600 moose in the state. Currently our moose population stands at about 4,400 animals. The public set the goals for the moose population through a public participation process. (For more information, see the NH Big Game Management Plan.) A lot of that downward trend has occurred because people requested fewer moose. Why? The primary driver for the public desire for fewer moose has been to reduce moose-vehicle collisions. These encounters are now down to about 170 per year; from 1996 to 2002 the average number of moose killed by vehicles in New Hampshire was well above 200 (225-265 per year). However, other forms of moose mortality appear to be on the increase.

Are moose numbers down throughout the state?

Rines: We’re most concerned about the White Mountains and central New Hampshire, where we have seen pretty significant reductions in recent years (since 2007), even with reduced numbers of moose hunt permits being issued. We believe these areas are likely being hit with the double whammy of both winter tick and brainworm (a parasite that deer can transmit, but are unaffected by). In other parts of the state, the Connecticut Lakes Region is at goal while the North region is slightly below goal, as is the Southeast region. Southwest New Hampshire remains below goal.

Click Read More to read the rest of the interview with Rines.

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