“We don’t know how many moose we have yet. We don’t know how frequent the moose are on the landscape. We don’t know their densities,” said Ben Tabor, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “What we do know is that our moose seem to be bigger and healthier than New Hampshire’s and Maine’s.”
Tabor said in recent years state biologists were concerned that the Adirondack moose population might be on the decline because many of the dead ones they encountered hadn’t been very healthy.
“A lot of the moose we found in the road randomly had very bad health problems, from brain worm to lung worm to heart worm, all of these different disease issues, parasite issues,” Tabor said.
In addition, other moose populations in the Northeast and in Minnesota have undergone drastic declines in recent years. The declines have been attributed to winter tick, a parasite, and numerous factors associated with climate change.
However, state biologists began to gain a different perspective on Adirondack moose this past winter when they collared a dozen of the animals, including nine females, with GPS collars. The collars are part of a multi-year study that is trying to determine the overall number of Adirondack moose, where they are located, and whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing. The collars help biologists track them and determine their home ranges.
Tabor said Aero Tech crews, which provided helicopter support this past winter when the moose were being collared, commented that the Adirondack moose were larger than ones in their age classes they’d helped collar in other northeastern states.
Another positive indication of the health of the herd came this spring when biologists noticed that all seven of the adult females that were collared gave birth to calves. The two other collared females were only yearlings and not mature enough to have offspring.
In addition, biologists have found winter ticks on some moose here, but they don’t seem to be having the same impact here as they are having in other states.
“This is all within the last 10 months that we figured these things out, and really we found out a lot of good news because we really expected to go out here and start looking at moose and find out that they’re just dying, and it’s a losing battle,” Tabor said, “because New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota, everyone at this latitude are saying moose are dying.”
The DEC is partnering in the study with Cornell University, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Right now, the DEC estimates there are 400 to 800 moose living in the state, and the majority of them live in the Adirondack Park.
Photo by Linda Bohrer Erion: A moose feeds in Helldiver Pond in the Moose River Plains.