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Hunter’s Corner: Helicopters help study moose in the North Country

For the month of January, Fish and Game put out a warning to North Country residents that the wappa, wpapa, wappa was the sound of helicopters scouring for moose and not an NSA operation. This was part of a specialized three-year study undertaken by Fish and Game in partnership with the University of New Hampshire. The moose research project entails the collaring of approximately 45 moose in the months of January 2014 and January 2015. The first collaring session succeeded in collaring 43 moose. The areas selected included the towns of Success, Berlin, Milan, Cambridge, Dummer, Millsfield and Errol. The target of the research centered on Wildlife Management Unit C2 and the eastern side of WMU’s B and C1.

The collaring takes place using net-guns and tranquilizer darts. Biologists then draw blood samples as well as hair samples, fecal samples and winter ticks. Four moose calves were lost in the process as a result of the darting. The technicians soon learned that the problem was with the drug they were using and reverted to net-guns only and no further problems were experienced. An equal number of calves and cows were collared. The collars typically transmit for about four years. A UNH graduate student will monitor the animals for as long as the collars keep transmitting.

The specialized helicopter-and-wildlife crew performed the collaring in a seven-day period and operated under extreme weather conditions in a helicopter with no doors. The low temperatures made for challenging flying conditions and added to the difficulty of equipment operations.

We don’t get the cold weather when we need it in order to curtail or at least slow down the expansion of winter ticks. What the winter tick does to moose is horrendous. When moose are affected by the winter tick they rub against trees to get rid of the irritation. In doing so, they rub off hair, which can also cause infection, and when they rub off too much hair the moose can die from hypothermia when the temperatures severely drop.

“Moose are not on the verge of disappearing from the New Hampshire landscape, but they are declining,” moose biologist Kristine Rines said. “Regional moose populations are facing some serious threats. We don’t know what the future holds for our moose, but we’re hopeful that a combination of research and management efforts will allow us to do all we can to secure the future of New Hampshire’s invaluable moose resources.”

Background on the moose mortality study underway in New Hampshire – and a link to photos and video from the 2014 moose collaring – may be found at wildnh/Newsroom/2014/Q1/moose_study_update.html. Another aspect to look at is the change in forestry practices. In years past, the tops of the trees harvested would be left and the nutriments would return to the soil to encourage future growth. Not anymore. The tops are chipped and removed from the cycle.

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Moose lottery applications were mailed out last week. The cost for entry is $10 for residents and $25 for non-residents. Last year the number of moose permits issued was 275. The current moose population is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 4,000, and I would anticipate the number of permits to be issued to be around 140 for 2014.

As a side note, while Maine’s moose population is estimated to be approximately 76,000, they are concerned with the southern part of Maine and thus they too will be collaring moose to conduct their own research on what may be a problem for them.

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So, what is happening in the deer population? The deer’s metabolism slows down to a crawl. Stored energy maintains them through the more difficult part of the winter. Their movements are guarded. They are taking on limited nourishment but they have to be careful not to expend more energy to obtain the nourishment than they are taking in. Deer, in my view, have three enemies in the winter months – predators, dogs left to roam the woods, and the misguided individuals who insist on feeding them.

There are three basic predators that pose a threat to deer. Bobcats and lynch are incredibly astute and challenging hunters. They hunt alone and are stealth in their pursuit of game. They are a challenge to both small and big game. The biggest threat to deer is the coyote. Coyotes hunt is packs. While they probably take down more small game than big game, their tactic is to surround the target, talk to one another and then confront their prey. It is not a pretty sight. But it is a part of nature.

High on my list of individuals I do not have a use for are those who let their dogs run loose. They are attracted to the deer’s movement and flashing white tail. It is game for them. They damage the deer in two ways. First, they cause the deer to expend energy they need to survive the winter. If the dogs are successful, they will chase down the deer, rip at their tendons and leave after the excitement of the moment has gone.

Also on my list are people who insist on feeding deer. Fish and Game has for years listed all of the reasons why this is a bad idea. My objections to this activity are many. First off, a deer has a multi-chamber stomach. The enzymes in the deer’s stomach can be altered with the introduction of a much richer diet than the deer is digesting. A potential result is the deer experiencing diarrhea, resulting in the loss of stored energy and dehydration. One of the other problems with feeding deer is stopping too soon. The greatest danger to deer is the period before the spring green-up. Their stored energy is all but expired. If they have been fed, they are in no condition to survive without being fed continuously. If you are looking for more reasons why you shouldn’t feed deer, go to Fish and Game’s website.

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Becoming an Outdoors Woman will be hosting a one-day workshop on March 22 at Owl Brook Hunter Education Center in Holderness for women who want to learn how to hunt turkeys. Participants will learn about wild turkey habitat and behavior, shotgun handling tips, scouting, calling, safety and ethics, and how to clean and care for your turkey. The cost of the session is $55, which includes lunch. This is an introductory class. No hunting license is required and there will be no live firing.

A mail-in application is available at nhbow . Registration opens tomorrow, and only mail-in application will be accepted.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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