How low will they (Maine’s Moose) go?

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 There’s not a lot of consensus or agreement on key issues in the new 15-year moose management plans, and the most recent meeting of the Big Game Steering Committee spent quite a bit of time on these issues.

From when moose hunting weeks should be scheduled, to the need for more research, to strategies to reduce the serious impact of ticks on moose, there’s always a lot to talk about at these meetings. The Steering Committee is working with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to create new plans for moose, deer, bear, and turkeys.

Lee Kantar, DIF&W’s very capable lead moose biologist, always has a lot of interesting information for the committee. For example, I found this statement from Lee to be interesting: “It’s inappropriate to suggest that a moose harvest in southern Maine will reduce moose/car collisions.”

That led to a lot of discussion about the moose hunt in southern and central Maine, with Gerry Lavigne, DIF&W’s former deer biologist who represents the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine on the Steering Committee, suggesting that southern Maine deer hunters be allowed to purchase permits to shoot moose.

Barry Burgason, representing the Maine Forest Products Council, reported that landowners have concerns about the impact of moose on the forest, and urged the agency to include a response to this in the new moose management plan. He had actually sent DIF&W a photo of a maple tree that had been destroyed by a moose.

It was also suggested that the moose hunting seasons need to be adjusted to take better advantage of the mating season, while avoiding the first week of October when grouse hunters fill the north woods and our sporting camps.

One strategy in the draft plan calls for temporarily discontinuing issuing permits for the southern Maine moose hunt (WMDs 22, 23, 25, an 26) while continuing to monitor vehicle collisions and other moose-human conflicts.

In WMDs 12-18, 27, and 28, the plan calls for managing moose by providing a “conservative level of hunting opportunity” by only issuing bull moose permits, while in WMDs 1-11 and 19 they will “attempt to stabilize the population near current levels over the short term by implementing an antlerless moose harvest to prevent population growth. Over the long term, use ongoing research and results of an adaptive management experiment to refine the moose management system to allow adjustments to moose population size based on moose health.”

And in WMDs 1 and 4, the strategy calls for considering a calf-only season, or a season for “barren” cows or the 2nd calf/twin with a cow, in order to “provide additional hunting opportunity while minimizing impacts on reproduction.”

I was pleased to have the draft plan acknowledge that more money is needed for moose research. DIF&W opposed and killed my legislative proposal last session to direct 1/3 of the money from the moose lottery and permits to moose research and management. I’ve got another bill is this session to direct all of that money to moose research and management. The agency’s position on that bill should be interesting!

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