CONCORD - New Hampshire moose collaring for 2018 has been completed, and the capture crew has moved on to Vermont, where the goal is to collar 30 calves and 5 adult cows. This year, 83 moose (68 calves and 15 adults) were collared in Maine and 50 (44 calves and 6 adult cows) were collared in New Hampshire.
This is the last year for collaring in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire study started in 2014 and will end in 2020.
This regional study of moose mortality and productivity has been conducted jointly with the University of New Hampshire, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and Vermont Fish and Wildlife, with all agencies sharing data in order to better understand how moose may fare in the future. The purpose of the study is to determine if winter ticks are the primary cause of increased moose mortality and decreased productivity, and how weather, forest-cutting regimes, and moose density interact to influence tick numbers on moose.
In 2014, Maine and New Hampshire had one study area each. In 2014, Maine added an additional, more northern study area in order to better understand how the longer winters in northern Maine influence tick numbers. In 2017, Vermont came on board with their study area. Currently, there are four study areas across the three states, representing different moose densities, weather patterns, and forest cutting regimes.
To date, the study has shown that ticks are the primary cause of increased moose mortality in these areas and are responsible for reduced productivity. The ticks are negatively impacted by the timing of first permanent snowfall and by drought during late summer and fall. Higher moose densities increase tick numbers on moose, which increases mortality and reduces productivity.
"In the fall of 2016, we had very dry conditions that killed many of the winter ticks before they could get on moose. As a result, mortality declined and productivity increased in 2017, allowing population growth to occur in northern New Hampshire," explained New Hampshire Fish and Game Moose Biologist Kristine Rines. "We did not have those conditions in the fall of 2017, but tick counts on collared animals this year, while higher than in 2016, were still below pre-drought conditions seen in previous years of the study. It will be interesting to see how these lower tick numbers will influence the coming year's mortality and productivity rates."