Moose have been present in the northern portion of New York since the Pleistocene (period of time spanning about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). However, by as early as the 1860s overhunting and habitat degradation had eliminated moose from New York. In response, a handful of small-scale moose restoration efforts were undertaken between 1870 and 1902 by private landowners and the NYS Fish, Forest and Game Commission, but were not successful. Over the next eighty years there were periodic moose sightings, but it wasn’t until 1986 that DEC staff documented a small population of resident moose in the Adirondacks that may have immigrated from Vermont, Massachusetts, or Quebec. Around 2010, it was thought that the population that started with only 6-11 individuals had grown to many as 400.
Over the past eight years, DEC has partnered with Cornell University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to monitor and assess the health and stability of New York’s moose population. Researchers determined that there were approximately 700 moose (as of 2019) located within the Adirondack Park. They also evaluated food availability and determined there was enough food on the landscape to support a larger population. Their study of GPS-collared adult cows (females) found that there was limited movement of these individuals to other areas, suggesting that these cows had enough local resources to establish home ranges, breed, and produce calves. These studies suggest that New York’s moose population is stable or potentially growing.
The first two years of a moose’s life can be the hardest due to winter conditions and an increased susceptibility to pathogens and parasites. Because of this, over the past two winters DEC partnered with Cornell University and Native Range Capture Services to catch 30 calf and yearling moose. All captured individuals were outfitted with GPS-tracking collars, which will self-release after two years of data collection. This study will help researchers assess how many calves and yearlings are surviving to breeding age. DEC will continue to monitor the population and potential threats to hopefully give moose the best chance of maintaining a healthy and viable population in New York into the future.
Photo at top by Erika Schwoyer. Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC.