Perhaps the most important goal in DIFW’s new moose management plan is this one: maintain a healthy sustainable moose population while providing hunting and viewing opportunities. Don’t we wish this was easy.
The plan notes that as Maine moves into a new horizon moose management impacts of winter ticks, a warming climate, changing forest practices and new information on moose health have resulted in some uncertainty for moose in the state. That is an understatement.
Research suggests that moose densities may still be at a level that results in high tick numbers, leading to high overwinter calf mortality and depressed reproduction. Until a question of whether winter tick densities can be reduced by lowering Maine’s most densities is answered by the research, the most prudent management approach is to attempt to stabilize moose populations, says the plan.
What they mean by that is manage for less moose. I do not find that to be acceptable.
The plan includes a lot of management strategies, including research, monitoring policy and regulations, communication, and outreach. I found it particularly interesting that they propose to explore the possibility of implementing a calf-only hunting season in order to provide additional hunting opportunity while minimizing impacts on moose population growth. I’m skeptical that any hunter would really want to shoot a moose calf.
The second goal is to continue researching the relationships between moose, parasites, habitat condition, climate, and management. This will require the department to “continue to invest in state-of-the-art research to determine the impacts of parasites, climate, and habitat on moose population dynamics.”
The department notes that compared to deer, very little information exists on the relationship of various moose health parameters and environmental factors.
One interesting research proposal would establish an experimental management unit in which moose density would be reduced to determine whether impacts of winter ticks can be reduced by lowering moose densities. They propose this as a high priority and will do it in WMD 4.
Goal number three is to ensure public satisfaction with management of the moose population and increase the public’s understanding of moose biology, ecology, and management. Under this goal I found a couple new proposals to be very interesting. They are:
“Consider adjusting the current hunting season framework so there is always one week between the September season and first October season.”
“Convene a committee to review the structure of the moose lottery and identify opportunities for improvement, including timing of the lottery, mandatory wait time between permits, and indicating preferences for permit type in season.” This goal will require participation by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.
This concludes my series of columns on the new big-game management plans. Overall, I think the department, along with the working groups that participated in this process, did an exceptional job. The plan does present lots of goals, objectives, and initiatives that will be very challenging given the department’s minimal staffing and budget.
I do have to note that new fisheries management plans started with the same process at the same time but have been suspended for the last two years and are nowhere near completion. That is not acceptable to Maine anglers.