MONTPELIER — A limited moose hunt in Vermont’s Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) E in the northeastern corner of the state has been proposed in order to reduce the impact of winter ticks on the moose population.

The proposal was presented by the Fish and Wildlife Department to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board at its Feb. 17 meeting.

“Moose density in WMU E remains well above one-moose-per-square mile, significantly higher than any other part of the state,” said Nick Fortin, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s biologist in charge of the moose project. “Moose densities greater than one-per-square mile support high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival.”

The Fish and Wildlife Department recently partnered with University of Vermont researchers to conduct a study of moose health and survival in WMU E. The results of this study, in which 126 moose (36 cows, 90 calves) were fitted with GPS tracking collars, clearly showed that chronic high winter tick loads have caused the health of moose in that part of the state to be very poor. Survival of adult moose remained relatively good, but birth rates were very low and less than half of the calves survived their first winter.

The goal of the Fish and Wildlife Department’s 2021 moose season recommendation, that was accepted by the Fish and Wildlife Board at their meeting, is to improve the health of moose in WMU-E by reducing the impact of winter ticks.

“Research has shown that lower moose densities, like in the rest of Vermont, 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 60 either-sex moose hunting permits and 40 antlerless moose hunting permits in WMU-E for the moose seasons this October. That would result in an estimated harvest of 51 to 66 moose, or 5 percent of the more than 1,000 moose currently estimated to live in WMU E.

“This permit recommendation will help address winter tick impacts on moose in WMU-E by reducing the density of moose, but it does so slowly, over a period of several years,” added Fortin. “This allows future moose permit allocations to be adjusted as new information becomes available. 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 in WMU-E, high tick loads will continue to impact the health of moose in that region for many years.”

No moose hunting permits are recommended for other regions of Vermont.

The 2021 Moose Season Recommendation and related information about moose research and management are available on Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s website at www.vtfishandwildlife.com. Comments may be provided until March 31 by emailing ANR.FWPublicComment@vermont.gov or by calling and leaving a message on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife public comment voicemail at (802) 265-0043.

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