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Solving Problems with Nature - Naturally

Certified Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Author - Wildlife Lecturer - Wildlife Photographer
Non-Lethal Control of Bats since 1983

NH Nature

New Hampshire Nature Notes by Eric Orff

Tuesday 03/27/2012 If Only Moose Could Vote.


Bullwinkle Moose

Deep Woods, NH

If only I could vote. I would vote for clean air, and the candidates who support the new Carbon Rule which is part of the Clean Air Act. You see New Hampshire moose are in trouble, real trouble. In fact we have been for some time now. Air pollution is delivering a one-two punch to us. This all started back some twenty years ago when humans first realized that their air pollution, including acid rain and air pollution like mercury and cadmium, was accumulating in our bodies. You know the stuff you shoot up into the atmosphere from coal fired power plants and similar dirty factories. It didn’t take you long to find out that me and my cousin, whitetail deer, had accumulated this toxic brew in our livers and other organs. Yes, you have poisoned us enough to make us too toxic for you to eat part of us. You humans have depended on moose and deer for food and clothing since the beginning of time. And this is how you repay us?

Now this same pollution is causing the earth’s temperature to rise. You call it climate change or global warming. We call it the kiss of death. To put this all into perspective lets look back a few decades. We moose were practically gone by 1901 when we first received protection from unregulated hunting. And from fewer than 50 moose by the mid 1900’s we thrived and grew in numbers. By 1988 the first hunting season was established with only 75 hunting permits allocated. And still we thrived and grew in numbers. Moose hunting permits numbers followed us up as our numbers grew. By 1991 100 permits were issued. Our numbers grew even more, and by 1997, 570 permits were then issued. But the earth was warming, increasing on average one degree each decade since 1970. Yet our numbers continued to grow as did the moose permit numbers. Yet things were changing as our winters warmed. Our nemesis the moose ticks were growing in numbers with ever warmer winters. By 2005 moose numbers grew to some 7,000 in New Hampshire. And hunting permits swelled to 675 by 2006. But then came even warmer winters which really caused moose tick numbers to thrive.

Most years a moose like me can live with upwards of 30,000 of these winter ticks biting, itching and burrowing into my flesh as they suck my blood. But given the extremely warm winters of late, due to all that air pollution, tick numbers have swelled to sometimes 160,000 ticks on a moose like me. This is a number that kills us, slowly as we scratch and rub ourselves against trees to try to scrap the tens of thousands of ticks off along with our protective fur. Then we slowly suffer and die of hypothermia.

By 2007, another unusually warm winter, moose numbers began to fall to an estimated population of only 5,500. And with that downturn in our numbers the moose hunting permit numbers were reduced to only 515 for 2008 and 2009 hunting seasons. This was followed by more declines in moose numbers and permits the following two years of only 395 permits.

New Hampshire Fish and Game moose biologist Kristine Rines figures that upwards of 40 percent of moose mortality is from winter ticks on average. But a winter like 2010, which was extremely mild, Kristine estimated over 20 percent of us adult moose and all our calves died the following winter, 2011, from winter ticks.

Now going into the 2012 season Kristine estimates that our moose population is closer to 4,000. And hunters will see a much further reduction in moose permits to only 275 permits to be issued for 2012 and 2013.

So thanks to a warming climate, especially too warm winters resulting in a scourge of winter ticks, our moose numbers have fallen from 7,000 moose to fewer than 4,000 today, a 40 percent decline. Moose hunter permits will have fallen 60 percent from 675 to 275 for the 2012 season. A recent quote in the Northern Woodlands magazine by Kristine Rines said “Moose are facing a triple threat in our changing climate. Increasing temperatures, changing forest species and increased mortality due to parasites may make it very hard to maintain a viable moose population in New Hampshire in the future.”

Could this state’s moose be essentially gone within another decade? If only moose could vote. I would vote to support the Environmental Protection Agencies efforts to curb air pollution like mercury, cadmium, arsenic and carbon. I would vote for our senators and congressmen who support the new Carbon Rule part of the Clean Air Act. I would call them to ask for their support. Until you see my stubby tail sticking out of the voting booth next to you, can I count on you? Can I count on your votes and calls to support the new EPA Carbon Rule? I’m counting on you. (To learn more go to: http://www.nwf.org/cleanair)


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