Monday, November 3, 2014

DEC Seeks Public’s Help In Finding Moose

Young_bull_moose(1)The state Department of Environmental Conservation is asking for the public’s help in locating moose in the Adirondacks, so they can put GPS collars on the animals for research purposes.

The DEC is currently in the early stages of a moose population study that is being undertaken with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cornell University, and Wildlife Conservation Society in Saranac Lake. As part of the study, state wildlife biologists plan to put GPS collars on four female moose.

The collars will track the location of the moose every two hours and download the information to a computer once a day. The data will help the DEC get a better handle on things such as the animals’ home range and what habitats they are frequenting. The collars will also be used during aerial population surveys and to check up on moose during the summer to see if they have calves. The collars are just one facet of the study, which will be coordinated by SUNY ESF postdoctoral associate Paul Schuette.

The DEC currently estimates the Adirondack moose population to be in the range of 600 to 1,000 moose, although DEC biologists have said that number is a very rough estimate without much scientific merit. Some places where the populations are believed to be strong are in southern Hamilton County near Speculator in the southern Adirondacks, between Loon Lake and Upper Chateaugay Lake in the northern Adirondacks, and around Honnedaga Lake near Boonville in the southwestern Adirondacks.

“This is what we’re trying to find out. Where are the concentrations?” said DEC wildlife biologist Ed Reed. “We know a few of them, but I’m sure there’s a few we don’t even know about.”

The Adirondack moose population has been a bit of a mystery to DEC wildlife biologists because its growth rate has been slower than anticipated. Moose started to reappear in the Adirondacks in about 1980. It then grew slowly over the years. By 2008, the DEC estimated the population to be about three hundred to five hundred. Around that time, DEC wildlife biologists said they expected the population to grow significantly in the coming years, anticipating that there would be more breeding among the animals living here. Apparently, that didn’t happen.

“It doesn’t seem like they are growing as fast as they should based on what happened in other states when they came back from zero moose, like Vermont, New Hampshire,” Reed said. “They showed ten to fifteen percent growth rates. If we had that here, we’d have several thousand moose by now.”

DEC wildlife biologists don’t really have a good explanation for why the population hasn’t grown quickly because they haven’t had the staff time or money to really study the animal. However, what is known is that moose in other states — Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota — have been on the decline in recent years. Scientists have blamed a number of factors, including climate change, winter ticks and liver flukes.

One study about Adirondack moose that was completed in recent years was done by WCS. Scientists analyzed DNA in moose scat and determined that Adirondack moose came from Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Reed said that WCS will be studying moose scat again for this project.

The Adirondack moose study is being funded through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. The goal of the research is to build a scientific foundation that DEC wildlife biologists can use to create a moose management plan. The research is expected to take three to five years.

If you’ve seen a moose, you can report it to the DEC by calling 518-897-1291.

Question: Have you seen a moose in the Adirondacks? If so, where?

Photo of bull moose courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues.

Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine.

From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake.

Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at [email protected]




One Response

  1. Dave Gibson says:

    Thanks, Mike. This study is a great example of the benefits of Pittman Robertson funds – for all people interested in this magnificent mammal. When I think of our state’s moose, I can’t help but think of our long-time moose expert Al Hicks and his many volunteers.

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