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Moose Research

What's in store for New Hampshire's moose? 

 

Moose Study Video: Watch a video of moose being collared in New Hampshire for this study.

A four-year study is underway in New Hampshire to learn more about threats facing the moose population, including winter tick. The study began in 2014.

 

 

Select images for larger view.

moose study

Checking calf weight

moose study

An alert calf

moose study

Counting ticks

moose study

Blood draw

"While regional moose populations are indeed facing some serious threats, moose are not on the verge of disappearing from the New Hampshire landscape, but they are declining," says Kristine Rines, N.H. Fish and Game’s Moose Biologist. "We don't know what the future holds, but we’re hopeful that this research will give us a better understanding of what and how weather factors and moose densities impact overall moose health and mortality.”

 

2017 NH Moose Study Update

By Kristine M Rines, Moose Project Leader, NH Fish and Game

 

2017 moose collaring is complete. With some snow and bitter cold (negative to single digit temperatures all days), helicopter capture company Native Range crew collared 13 adult cows and 37 calves (15 cow calves and 22 bull calves) in three days in northern New Hampshire. Average calf weights were 369 for cows and 404 for bulls, with tick counts averaging 15 on adult cows and 32 on calves. All animals were netted.

 

In 2016, the first year we weighed animals, average cow calf weight was 363 and bull calves weighed 390. Tick loads averaged 44 on adult cows, and 67 on calves. It took 6 days to collar 38 calves (20 cows and 18 bulls) and 10 cows.

 

Many thanks to the Native Range crew, who are extremely professional, hard-working and exemplary animal handlers and data collectors. NH Fish and Game also owes a debt of thanks to Dr. Peter Pekins of UNH, who is doing his usual wonderful job of overseeing this project and making sure the Department gets useful information that can be utilized for management decision-making. There is no better wildlife professor with whom to collaborate!

 

Thank you, as well, to Fish and Game biologists Will Staats and Andy Timmins and Berlin Fish Hatchery Manager Wayne Paschal for their unwavering help and support of the field work. This project could not be done without you. And last but not least, many thanks to the current UNH master’s candidate, Dan Ellingwood, and his crew; they are reliable, accurate, professional, cheerful in all weathers. We could not have a better crew!

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Moose with ticks

Select image for larger size.

Photo credit: Dan Bergeron

Moose Study Continues

 

Approximately 45 moose cows and calves were collared in each year in 2014, 2015 and 2016 for this study of moose mortality and productivity. In 2017, NH Fish and Game contracted with the capture company Native Range to collar moose in the towns of Success, Berlin, Milan, Cambridge, Dummer, Millsfield, Second College Grant, Wentworth’s Location, and Errol (Wildlife Management Unit C2 and the eastern side of WMUs B and C1 and southern A2). The Native Range capture crew uses net-guns and tranquilizer darts to capture the moose in order to collar them. Blood and other samples collected during collaring are used to help evaluate the health of the moose.

 

The collared animals are being radio-tracked and monitored for as long as the collars keep transmitting. Graduate students from the University of New Hampshire, which is partnering with Fish and Game in the study, are tracking the moose, recording how long the individual moose live, and when a moose dies, getting there as soon as possible to determine the cause of death.

 

Moose with tick infestation

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Photo credit: Dan Bergeron

 

What We're Finding

 

"This work will give us important data on how calf and adult moose mortality is affected by differing tick loads and moose densities.” explains Rines. “But it will take years of data to fully understand how tick levels impact mortality, and how weather and moose density affects tick loads on the moose.”

 

Of the 45 moose cows and calves collared during the first year of the study (2014), researchers recorded 64% mortality for moose calves and 5% mortality for adult cow moose. In 2015, calf mortality was 74% and adult mortality due to winter tick was 5%. In 2016, following the exceptionally mild winter of 2015-16, calf mortality was 80% and adult mortality 22%. As winters become consistently shorter more ticks survive and calf mortality has remained high.

 

Moose Collaring

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In 2017, the capture crew will collar moose in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, as the three states work together to learn how moose density and weather interact to boost tick-caused moose mortality and reduce moose birth rates.

 

"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," says Rines. "What we learn will help our moose management team anticipate and respond to changing moose mortality and productivity."

 

Learn More

 

 

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New Hampshire moose being collared in 2014 for a study of the impact of winter tick and other health threats. Select image for larger size. NHFG Photo.

moose tick team

UNH graduate students count ticks found on the hide of a collared moose that died. This individual was carrying thousands of ticks.Select image for larger size.

Photo credit: Gary Sleeper

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Moose with tick infestation

Select image for larger size.

Photo credit: Dan Bergeron

 

Moose with tick infestation

Select image for larger size.

Photo credit: Dan Bergeron

 

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wsfr

 

The study is funded by federal Wildlife Restoration Program dollars, with the support of matching funds from the University of New Hampshire. It may help answer a question on the mind of many Granite State residents and visitors: What's in store for New Hampshire moose?