Three-Year Project Aims to Explain Decline in Population
As the decline of the Granite State’s moose population continues, the state recently started a three-year study of moose mortality. SEA member Kristine Rines, the state’s moose biologist, gave an update this week on the progress of the study.
Crews captured and collared 43 moose in January and will try for another 45 next January. Rines said researchers will keep an eye on these moose, watching how long they live and working to figure out a cause of death when they die.
“Moose are not on the verge of disappearing from the New Hampshire landscape, but they are declining,” Rines said. “Regional moose populations are facing some serious threats. We don’t know what the future holds for our moose, but we’re hopeful that a combination of research and management efforts will allow us to do all we can to secure the future of New Hampshire’s invaluable moose resources.”
The state’s moose population has fluctuated over time. In the 1800s, you could almost count the number of moose in NH on two hands. The population peaked around 7,600 in 1996 but now stands around 4,400. Numerous states have seen declines in the moose population, but it’s not totally clear why so many have been dying off.
“It’s clear that we need to learn more about the causes of moose mortality and how our changing weather patterns may be affecting both the causes and rates of mortality in our moose herd,” Rines said. Researchers will be looking closely at whether the increase in moose mortality and reduction in reproductive success in New Hampshire is because of winter tick, or if additional disease and parasite problems or other causes of mortality are in evidence.
“If this trend is driven primarily by winter tick, then every year will be different, because weather is such a big player,” said Rines. “What we learn will help our moose management team anticipate and respond to changing moose mortality and productivity.”
If you’d like to read more about moose in New Hampshire, you can find lots of information on the Fish and Game website.