January 27, 2016

Threats to the Northeast Moose Population

A 2015 article in the New Haven Register quoted the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Communications Director as saying the state’s moose population will increase over the next decade. According to the article, since the mid-1990s the number of moose sightings in the state increased by about four each year.

This contrasts to a Northern Woodlands magazine article focusing on the declining moose population in certain northeastern states. Focusing on moose populations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, the article attributed the population decline to several problems: parasites such as winter ticks and brainworm, disease, and malnutrition. It cited temperature increases as exacerbating the  problems. (The New Hampshire moose population has declined from 7,600 in 1996 to about 4,400 recently.)

According to the Northern Woodlands article, a traditional New England seasonal pattern of frosty autumns, chilly springs, and lingering snowpack is helpful to prevent parasite infestations. For example, colder temperatures suppress winter tick populations by decreasing the ability to successfully attach to moose. The more ticks that attach, the greater the animal’s blood loss, which is particularly problematic to moose calves that are smaller in size and have higher metabolic needs. Also, whitetail deer carry brainworm, and while brainworm does not harm deer, it impacts the moose nervous system. Warmer temperatures could help increase deer populations, thus increasing the opportunity for moose to become infested.  

Image Source: flickr.com