The 2021 moose season recommendation aims to improve the health of moose in WMUs E1 and E2 by reducing the impact of winter ticks.
In a three-year study of 126 moose (36 cows, 90 calves) that began in 2017, the results showed that chronic high winter tick loads caused the health of moose in WMU E to be very poor:
- Adult survival remains relatively good but impacts of winter ticks have caused birth rates to be very low.
- About half of moose calves die each winter, primarily due to heavy winter tick loads.
Moose Density and Winter Ticks
Winter ticks are a host dependent parasite with moose being the primary host responsible for major fluctuations in winter tick densities. Reducing moose density decreases the number of available hosts which in turn decreases the number of winter ticks on the landscape.
Moose density in WMU E remains above 1 moose per square mile. No WMU outside of the Northeast Kingdom ever had a moose density of 1 moose per square mile.
- Moose densities greater than 1 moose per square mile support high numbers of winter ticks that impact the health of moose.
- Moose densities below 0.75 per square mile support relatively few winter ticks that do not impact moose populations. This is the case in most of Vermont – winter ticks are present, but do not cause population level impacts.
Moose population reduction will be necessary to break the winter tick cycle and improve the health of moose in WMU E. Without intervention to reduce the moose population, high tick loads will continue to impact the health of moose in this region for many years.
The department recommends issuing 60 either sex hunting permits and 40 antlerless-only hunting permits in WMU E for the 2021 hunting seasons. This is expected to result in the harvest of approximately 58 moose, including 20-30 adult females, or about 5 percent of the estimated moose population in WMU E.
This permit recommendation is a conservative first step to addressing winter tick impacts on moose in WMU E. Given the poor health of the moose population in that area and a clearly identified cause, it is important to take action to address this issue as quickly as possible.
Management of moose in WMU E and throughout Vermont will continue to be adaptive and respond to new information as it becomes available.