Moose hunt proposed to improve moose health in NEK

VTF&W photos by Jake DeBow, Josh Blouin: The high number of moose in the northeastern corner of Vermont has stimulated a dramatic increase in winter ticks, causing moose health to severely decline. VTF&W explains that reducing the number of moose will reduce the number of parasitic ticks and improve moose health.   

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has proposed issuing 180 moose hunting permits in Vermont’s Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) E in the northeastern corner of the state in a continued effort to reduce the impact of winter ticks on moose in that area.  No permits are recommended for the rest of the state.  This is the same permit allocation that was approved by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board in 2023.

The proposal was given initial approval by the Fish and Wildlife Board at its February 21 meeting and is now available for public comment.

The goal of the department’s 2024 moose harvest recommendation is to improve the health of moose in WMU-E by reducing the number of moose and thereby reducing the abundance and impact of winter ticks. 

“Moose are abundant in WMU E with significantly higher population density than in any other part of the state,” said Nick Fortin, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s moose project leader.  “The higher moose density supports high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival.” 

Ongoing monitoring of moose health in WMU-E shows the population continues to be negatively impacted by winter ticks.  Birth rates are low, and many calves do not survive their first winter.

“Research has shown that lower moose densities support relatively few winter ticks that do not impact moose populations,” said Fortin.  “Reducing moose density decreases the number of available hosts which in turn decreases the number of winter ticks on the landscape.”

The department would issue 80 either-sex moose hunting permits and 100 antlerless moose permits in WMU-E for the moose seasons this October.  This is expected to result in a harvest of about 94 moose, or about 10 percent of the moose population in WMU-E. 

“This permit recommendation represents a continued attempt to address winter tick impacts on moose in WMU-E,” added Fortin.  “Given the poor health of the moose population in that area and a clearly identified cause, we need to take action to address this issue.  Without intervention to reduce the moose population, high tick loads will continue to impact the health of moose in that region for many years.”

“Department staff, including lead moose biologist Nick Fortin and Research Manager Dr. Katherina Gieder, brought incredible scientific expertise to this recommendation,” said Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife Christopher Herrick.  “The proposal our board vetted and approved was informed by years of field research and sophisticated statistical analyses that have been featured in peer reviewed publications alongside results from sister efforts in Maine and New Hampshire.”

The 2024 Moose Harvest Recommendation and information about the moose study are available on Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s website.  From the Home page, click on Hunt and then Moose.

Comments may be provided until March 31 by emailing [email protected].

As many as 90,000 winter ticks have been found on one moose.  More than half of moose calves have died in some winters due to blood loss caused by the winter ticks. 

Source: 2.22.2024. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources | Department of Fish and Wildlife, Montpelier, website

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