PORTLAND, Maine — It was a good winter to be a moose in Maine.
Despite struggles in recent years, Maine's state animal had an improved survival rate during the winter. State moose biologist Lee Kantar said state data show about half of moose calves studied in western Maine have survived this year.
That's much better than last year, when nearly three-fourths died. Moose calves studied in northern Maine also did well, and survival rates were improved for adult moose.
"Survival of calves is much improved this year and the adult mortality is very low," Kantar said, adding that the results are part of a multiyear study that is slated to continue through 2020.
Moose populations have fallen in the northern New England states in recent years, and Maine's moose population is thought to have fallen from 76,000 five years ago to between 60,000 and 70,000 today. The animals have struggled with parasites such as winter ticks. However, there were positive signs this year around the region.
Vermont saw five of 30 collared moose calves die this winter. In New Hampshire, only one collared calf died — down from nearly 75 percent the previous year. New Hampshire's moose biologist has said one factor was drought, as many of the ticks that feed on moose died because they were unable to access moisture.
Maine is still looking to cut down the number of moose hunting permits it offers this year. The state, which has the largest population of moose in the lower 48 states, is reducing the number of moose permits from 2,140 to 2,080.
Daryl DeJoy of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine said reducing moose permits will accommodate people who want to see live moose in the wild.
"There are more people who want to see a live moose than a dead moose," he said. "We have to start managing for the many people who want to come here and watch wildlife."
Sportsman's Alliance of Maine is happy to share space with wildlife watchers and supports the permit cut, said its executive director, David Trahan.
"Hunters can share the woods," he said.