Moose permits doubled by F&W - Jan. 28, 2004
By DENNIS JENSEN
Permits for the 2004 moose season will be nearly doubled this fall because biologists believe that the big deer's heavy consumption of plants is causing extensive environmental damage in Vermont.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologists are asking for a 94 percent increase in moose hunting permits - from 440 last year to 850 in 2004 - to help stabilize moose population growth in the Northeast Kingdom and slow it down in the rest of the state.
Moose feed heavily on plants, including young trees that would become Vermont's future forest, biologists believe. The most severe damage is occurring in Northeast Kingdom forestlands where there are more than three moose per square mile.
Biologists want to focus much of the increase on the Northeast Kingdom, where much moose-related damage to young trees is occurring. Permits for the Northeast Kingdom would be increased from 270 last year to 640 for the hunting season next fall.
Biologists estimate the moose population at nearly 2,000 in Essex County and about 4,700 statewide.
Fish & Wildlife biologist Cedric Alexander said that, in the most heavily browsed areas, much of the understory of young trees has been destroyed or severely damaged.
"The ability of some trees to regenerate a new forest is being compromised," said Alexander, the department's moose project leader, "and many other species of wildlife are being negatively affected due to habitat destruction."
Ground-nesting birds, snowshoe hare, endangered spruce grouse and other small wildlife have less shelter from predators due to the heavy browsing by moose, Alexander said.
Hunters shot 298 moose in Vermont's 2003 hunting season. If the Fish and Wildlife Board approves the proposed number of permits, the harvest is expected to be about 500 in the six-day, Oct. 16-21 hunting season this year.
Rep. Robert Helm, R-Castleton, said he believes an increase in moose permits is a good idea whose time has come. He has applied for the moose permit almost every year since the season first opened, in 1993.
"They issued 25 permits that first year and they've kept it a _conservative number all these years because they weren't really sure what the reaction would be from the moose herd," he said.
Helm, a former chairman of the House Fish & Wildlife Committee, said the moose herd has grown dramatically over the past decade. The largest deer in North America is now found in every corner of the state.
"It's obvious the herd is increasing," he said. "I think the increase is called for. I think it's safe to double up the moose permits."
"A growing database of moose population information collected from 11 years of moose hunting in Wildlife Management Units E1 and E2, along with sighting rates of moose collected from deer hunters have made it possible to create a more sophisticated population model for this part of the state," Alexander said.
"Our goal, as described in Vermont's Moose Management Plan, is to stabilize the moose population in (units E1 and E2) at 1996 levels by increasing permits most in this area," he said. "The proposed increase in permits should also help reduce the number of human injuries and fatalities caused by motor vehicle collisions with moose as well as reduce moose damage to maple sugar tubing and farm fencing."
Permits are issued by lottery to residents and non-residents. Last year, 10,006 residents and 1,397 non-residents entered Vermont's moose hunting lottery, with one successful hunter coming from as far away as Kansas.
The biggest moose taken during the season weighed 908 pounds dressed and was shot by one of the youngest hunters, 14-year-old Cassandra Hemwey of South Royalton. The antlers of the moose, which was shot in Lemington, measured 63 inches wide and carried 19 points.
Applications for Vermont moose hunting permits are available from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, 103 South Main St., Waterbury, 05671-0501. Call the department at 241-3700 or contact it by e-mail (email@example.com) or download a copy of the application from www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
Contact Dennis Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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