With high moose numbers in northeastern Vermont contributing to the abundance and negative impact of winter ticks, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is pleased to report a successful, regulated 2021 moose hunting season.
“Moose density in Vermont’s northeastern Wildlife Management Unit — WMU E — is above one moose per square mile,” says Nick Fortin, the department’s moose biologist. “This high density of moose contributes to winter tick numbers that can negatively impact moose health and survival. A goal of this year’s hunt was to improve the overall health of WMU E’s moose population by reducing its density.”
The department issued 100 moose hunting permits this year, resulting in 62 moose harvested between the October 1-7 archery season and October 17-22 rifle season.
Of the 100 permits available, 94 were issued by lottery, to which over 5,700 hunters applied. The department reserves the first five lottery permits for Vermont military veterans. Three non-lottery permits are reserved for youth with life-threatening illnesses, and three more are auctioned as a fundraiser for conservation.
High interest in Vermont’s moose hunt is an important platform for the department to show how science informs hunting regulations to benefit wildlife and people.
“This was my once in a lifetime opportunity,” says hunter Nick Burnham, who estimates that he has applied for the lottery close to twenty times before this year’s successful application and hunt. I believe that hunting is conservation. We’re here to do what benefits the moose population and also to put good, wholesome food on the table.”
This year’s harvest goals were informed by a three-year study led by department biologists and University of Vermont researchers. Researchers fitted 90 moose calves and 36 adult females with GPS collars to understand the interplay between winter ticks, moose density and overall population health in WMU E.
The study showed that chronic high winter tick loads have caused the health of moose in northeastern Vermont to be very poor. Survival of adult moose remained relatively good, but birth rates were very low, and less than half of the calves in the study survived their first winter.
“This year’s hunt in WMU E was an important step towards reducing moose density in the northeast of the state to decrease the number of hosts for winter ticks and achieving a healthy, sustainable moose population,” Fortin said.