Moose permit levels in most of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts will remain static this year, but slight tinkering in other districts will result in an overall decrease in permits, according to a plan being considered by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Biologists have proposed an allotment of 2,815 permits for hunting seasons that will take place later this year. In 2014, a total of 3,095 permits were issued.
Lee Kantar, the state’s moose biologist, said that he and other biologists look at each Wildlife Management District separately and decide whether permit numbers in those districts should remain the same or should be altered.
“There’s a goal and an objective for each management district, and that is based on what the public wants,” he said, referring to working groups that gather periodically to assess the state’s moose population.
In some districts, decisions to decrease the moose herd are made because of damage to crops or concern about traffic safety. In other zones, such as those near Greenville, hunting is not allowed during the earliest season in September so that nature-watchers can enjoy their encounters with moose. All of those decisions are made by a public working group that meets periodically, Kantar said.
“The department’s charge is to try to meet [those] goals and objectives,” Kantar said. “Given what we’ve been through over the last several years, we have some districts that have come into the target [range], so you reduce permits there, especially on the cow side of things.”
The moose permit proposal recently made its way to the DIF&W’s advisory council for the first step in a three-part rulemaking process. A final decision will be made later in the year, and other factors, including winter severity and data gathered during a study of radio-collared moose, will be considered.
In May 2014, permit levels were reduced by 25 percent after biologists learned that 30 percent of adult moose and 70 percent of calves in the study group died over the winter.
According to the proposal under discussion, the number of permits would be reduced in five of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts. Levels would increase in one district and would remain unchanged from 2014 in the rest of the areas where moose hunting is allowed.
The biggest proposed change would take place in Wildlife Management District 2, which covers the central slice of northernmost Maine. Biologists want to cut the number of permits in half, from 600 to 300.
“We feel we’re pretty close to what the target [population] was, so you’re not going to have that same number of permits,” Kantar said.
One zone with a proposed increase in permits: Wildlife Management District 9, which sits east of Moosehead Lake. The bulk of the 75-permit increase would come in the form of November permits that would target 50 female moose.
Biologists said that no cow moose harvest has been allowed in the district since 2002, and aerial surveys have shown that the overall moose population is above the target level in the management plan.
Other districts with proposed changes in moose-permit levels:
- Wildlife Management District 6: A reduction of 25 bull permits in October.
- Wildlife Management District 22: A reduction of 10 permits in November. Kantar said that biologists had allotted permits in that zone to cut down on traffic accidents, but no moose had actually been harvested by hunters in 2014 or 2013. Biologists have proposed that no moose hunting take place in the district this year.
- Wildlife Management District 26: A reduction of 15 permits, bringing the total allotment to 10, in a zone where hunter success has been limited. “The [Wildlife Management District] has very few places that hold moose, with limited access,” biologists wrote in the proposal.
- Wildlife Management District 27: A reduction of five permits, bringing the total to 10. Biologists said that they have determined that the moose population in the zone is likely below the objective.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.