Surprise! Maine has lots of moose!
We’ve got a lot more of Maine’s number one tourist attraction than we thought. And I’m not talking about lobsters or lighthouses. I’m talking about moose, the ugly beast that has been the subject of controversy since the moose hunt was reestablished in 1980.
Last week Maine’s top moose biologist, Lee Kantar, estimated the state’s moose population to be an astonishing 75,000. That’s 45,000 higher than the estimates Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reported up until 2007, when the department’s longtime moose biologist, Karen Morris, upped her estimate as she approached retirement.
Morris stunned a 2007 moose working group when she reported we might have as many as 60,000 moose, begging the question: why aren’t we issuing more moose-hunting permits?
Today, given Kantar’s new estimate, that question is sure to be raised again. In fact, Dr. Vaughn Anthony, a retired national marine biologist from Boothbay and a member of the 2007 working group, has already raised the question.
Anthony notes that DIF&W will issue 3,800 moose hunting permits this year, representing 5 percent of the 75,000 moose in the woods. He says a population of 75,000 moose should allow an annual harvest of 8,000 to 14,000 animals. “We’re annually leaving $50 million in the woods,” Anthony exclaimed, basing that figure on the average amount of money spent by each moose hunting party. His figure ought to get someone’s attention, for sure.
In 2010, DIF&W substantially increased the number of moose permits, from 3,140 to 3,862. Unfortunately, that did not win back the many hunters who have given up on the moose lottery over the years.
Lottery applications peaked in 1994 at 94,532. Even with the increase in permits, the number of applicants increased only 158 in 2011 from the previous year. In fact, applications from residents, who get 85 percent of the permits, actually decreased by 485!
I've posted a more comprehensive look at moose issues on my website, if you want to know more.