DEC continues its moose research

BY…JUSTIN A. LEVINE

The state Department of Environmental Conservation continued its study of moose in the Adirondacks last month, collaring several of the animals in late January.

For the last few years, the DEC has hired a contractor to use aerial surveys to locate moose. Once the contractor finds an animal, the moose is either tranquilized or captured with a net. The contractors then put on ear tags and in most cases a GPS collar before they collect blood samples and give the moose a quick physical.

These efforts are aimed at determining the population of moose in New York, which is estimated to be between 600 and 1,000 individuals.

DEC spokesman David Winchell said in an email Wednesday morning that five moose were collared this year: two in the Old Forge area and three in the northern Adirondacks. Last year’s moose were collared around Lake Lila and Debar Lodge.

After last year’s collaring effort, DEC’s Region 5 wildlife director Ed Reed told the Enterprise that the contractors target females in an effort to track reproduction rates and movement, noting that all nine moose collared last year were cows. About 25 moose are now fitted with radio or GPS collars across the Adirondacks.

A contractor fits this moose with a GPS collar near the end of January. The moose are fitted with collars and researchers take blood, hair and stool samples to track the overall health of the moose population.
(Photo by David Rivers, Native Range Capture Services)

A contractor fits this moose with a GPS collar near the end of January. The moose are fitted with collars and researchers take blood, hair and stool samples to track the overall health of the moose population. (Photo by David Rivers, Native Range Capture Services)

The GPS collar shows where the moose is and has been, as well as sending an alert if the collar stops moving for too long of a time, like when a moose dies.

“Somebody is looking at those (GPS data) at least once a week, kinda keeping tabs on them, seeing if anything abnormal is happening,” Reed said at that time. “If something happens to one of them, (like) we get a mortality, the collar knows that.”It will send an email to DEC staff, usually within eight hours. DEC has yet to receive a mortality notification, though.

The GPS data is not available to the public, to protect the moose.

“We don’t want people harassing them, especially during calving season,” Reid said.

Moose moved back into the Adirondacks in the 1980s, often making their way here from Vermont or Canada. Moose had been extirpated from the Adirondacks for decades before that.

In the 1990s, the DEC came up with an environmental impact statement and held a series of public meetings. At that time, DEC came up with four guidelines to follow until it could get a better handle on the population.

The state decided to welcome moose back into 14 counties of northern New York, but decided against speeding up the process through relocation. It also pledged to study moose populations and develop a plan to handle nuisance issues.

Since then, the state has been tracking moose, often in conjunction with neighboring states like Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. By all using the same contractor, the states save some money on the process.

In 1999, legislation was passed that allows someone who hits a moose with their car to obtain a permit to keep the animal. If the person who’s car was damaged declines, then law enforcement can issue the permit to someone else. And last year in the state senate, a bill that would require the DEC to develop hunting regulations for moose advanced, but failed to pass in the session. The bill would simply add the word“moose” to current big-game hunting regulations.

While the DEC is still working to figure out the actual population of moose here, moose numbers in other states are dropping drastically.

New Hampshire’s moose population has dropped nearly 50 percent in the last 15 years, from about 7,000 to only 4,000. Last year, New Hampshire’s moose tag lottery only had 71 permits awarded as opposed to 675 in 2007. Minnesota ended its moose hunt entirely, and states like Vermont, Maine and Wisconsin have also cut back on moose tags.

The main factor in these other states is not hunting mortality, but rather deaths from diseases, infections and most significantly, ticks.

“In other states with a higher moose density, winter ticks have become the main mortality factor for moose, but these ticks have not yet been documented in New York,” the DEC’s moose website says. “The winter tick spends three life cycles on an individual animal, feeding on its blood during each cycle.”

In addition to the collaring efforts, the DEC is also asking the public for their help in recording moose sightings. There is a form that citizens can fill out if they spot a moose on the loose.

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