CONCORD, N.H. - Moose biologist Kristine Rines Monday recapped the progress of the moose mortality study that got underway in northern New Hampshire in January of 2014. This is the first year of a three year study being undertaken by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department in partnership with the University of New Hampshire.
A total of 43 moose were captured and collared during the first two weeks of the study, very close to the anticipated number (45). For this initial project work, Fish and Game contracted with a specialized helicopter wildlife crew from Aero Tech, Inc., to capture and collar moose for the study, using net-guns and tranquilizer darts. Extremely cold temperatures made the work challenging, because it affected some equipment.
Biologists took blood samples from the collared moose, as well as hair samples, fecal samples and winter ticks.
Another 45 moose are expected to be collared next January, as the study continues. No additional moose will be collared in New Hampshire in the third and final year of the study. The collars typically transmit for about four years; a graduate student from UNH will monitor the animals for as long as the collars keep transmitting. According to N.H. Fish and Game moose biologist Kristine Rines, researchers will look at how long the moose live, and try to determine cause of death when they die.
Background on the moose mortality study underway in New Hampshire, and a link to photos and video from the 2014 moose collaring, may be found at http://www.wildnh.com/Newsroom/2014/Q1/moose_study_update.html.
Rines also addressed questions on the status of New Hampshire's moose population, explaining the reasons Fish and Game is undertaking the study at this time.
"Moose are not on the verge of disappearing from the New Hampshire landscape, but they are declining," said Rines. "Regional moose populations are facing some serious threats. We don't know what the future holds for our moose, but we're hopeful that a combination of research and management efforts will allow us to do all we can to secure the future of New Hampshire's invaluable moose resources."
Through the study, researchers hope to find out if natural mortality has increased among New Hampshire's moose since a similar study was conducted here ten years ago (from 2001-2006). The current research effort is a more directed study focused primarily on mortality. "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," Rines said.
Researchers will be looking closely at whether the increase in moose mortality and reduction in reproductive success in New Hampshire is because of winter tick, or if additional disease and parasite problems or other causes of mortality are in evidence.
"If this trend is driven primarily by winter tick, then every year will be different, because weather is such a big player," said Rines. "What we learn will help our moose management team anticipate and respond to changing moose mortality and productivity."
The study, funded by federal Wildlife Restoration dollars with the support of matching funds from UNH, may help answer a question on the mind of many Granite State residents and visitors: What's in store for New Hampshire moose?
For more information on New Hampshire's moose population, visit http://www.wildnh.com/Newsroom/2013/Q3/moose_future_uncertain_082913.html.