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Moose population stabilized last year in N.H. as bear, turkey rising



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 03, 2018

The number of hunting permits for moose in New Hampshire may stay the same this fall as last year, reflecting an improvement in the population of this iconic mammal, although perhaps only a temporary one.

“The long-term picture hasn’t changed, to our knowledge, but we did see a little uptick in both moose survival and productivity in 2017,” said Kent Gustafson, wildlife biologist for New Hampshire Fish and Game. “It appears as if that drought we had in the fall of 2016 wound up killing a lot of the ticks throughout dehydration, so the tick loads were down.”

A surge in the population of what is known as winter tick has been a big cause for the decline in moose numbers throughout New Hampshire and other parts of New England. It is not uncommon for a moose to have thousands, even tens of thousands, of ticks feeding on it.

“The net result was that for at least one year, they came through with better survival, with stable or slight increases in survival,” he said. “It’s good news – at least temporarily.”

Fish and Game is proposing that 51 moose-hunting permits be issued for the hunting season this fall. While that is the same as last year, it is less than 20 percent of the number issued five years ago, and less than one-tenth of the 675 permits issued a decade ago. No permits will be issued in the state’s southwest corner and only a handful in the southern half of New Hampshire.

Last year, hunters killed 37 moose – 25 bulls and 12 cows – compared to more than 300 that were killed each year from 1994 through 2010.

The hunting proposals are part of the proposed 2018 wildlife rule package approved by the N.H. Fish and Game Commission in February. Three public hearings have been scheduled for late March and early April, although the dates are not final. A final vote will follow the hearings.

In other proposals, Fish and Game is developing rules about deer feeding stations at lawmakers’ behest, in response to concerns about the practice of feeding deer.

In 2015, a dozen deer died in South Hampton, on the Massachusetts border, from complications that arose from a deer feeding station. Biologists say the practice actually harms deer survival in winter by causing them to congregation, spread disease and face other risks.

For bear hunting, Fish and Game is proposing to add nine days of hunting and seven days of baiting in central New Hampshire, and 14 extra days of hunting in the southwest corner of the state, in response to the growing population of black bears.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313, dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)