New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff
Falling leaves and falling temperatures.
Slip sliding away towards winter now. Sure, there has been some dustings in the mountain tops, but real snow is somewhere off in the distance. Right? Then boom here is winter. Winter is like that. And it doesn't take a foot of snow to have winter cloak us all. For me it is when the skim ice we see on a local farm pond in the morning does not melt by early afternoon. Yes, a coating of ice not melting is surely the key to locking that pond up for the winter.
I had predicted Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning that the coming storm Thursday night into Friday morning would surely take most of the brilliantly covered leaves off the trees by storm's end. But we never got the winds predicted, although my rain gauge is showing two and a quarter inch of rain again. I think only the second time since March. We didn't get the wind inland here, as they did towards the coast, so we have been left with more colors than I had thought we'd have post storm. Certainly, much needed rain.
Today starts the annual NH moose hunting season. I worked a moose checking station for two decades while a NH Fish and Game Department wildlife biologist. How I have watched the flow and ebb of the New Hampshire moose population. Moose in numbers really didn't begin to show until into the 80's. My boss at Fish and Game at the time was Henry Laramie. A well-seasoned wildlife biologist who had been paying attention to things for decades. He had built a camp up in Pittsburg I'm guessing well before the 8o's. He had been noting an increase in moose numbers and began recording sightings on a set of topographic maps he kept in his office. Each time there was a meeting of the Law Enforcement folks down at HQ he'd summon some up to his office to "talk moose" asking them about their observations and dutifully marking them on his set of maps. By the mid 1980's Henry figured it was time to study this increasing moose population and found a way to create and fund a moose biologist position. Which happened in 1985, as I recall. And yes, we did do a moose study in 1986 and 1987 and by 1988 started the very first moose season. I think I happened to check in the very first moose legally killed since 1901 at my Twin Mountain check station. Only 75 permits were issued that first year and for only the northern two-thirds of the state.
Moose numbers peaked around 2000 along with moose hunting permits soon after. Dropping from hundreds of permits issued then to only 39 this year. Over a 90 percent reduction in permit numbers. And so, it goes with our warming state. It's just too hot for moose. Moose do not migrate to cooler places. Well at least not distances. Yes, over the summer they do seek out cooler refugia. Swamps and cool evergreen forests. Unlike the northern birds they don't migrate, say to Canada over the hot summer and return here for the winter. In fact, our winters are too warm and short for them now too. They are just doomed. More moose are now killed by cars than by hunters. Oh, there will still be some moose spread out in hundreds across the state. Too few and scattered to have the winter ticks finding many to kill. Kind of weird to see this take place well within my lifetime.
A warming New Hampshire has been great for our deer. Winter always held the trump card when it comes to the deer population. So as our winters have gone away deer numbers have jumped, ok, not exactly a jumped as it has taken four decades. But deer numbers are up from around 40,000 in the early 1980's to over 100,000 deer today. And maybe as high as 120,000. And deer densities shifted from the northern sections of the state to the south region. Based on the current Deer Management Plan developed a few years ago with public input, calls for increasing deer numbers in six of the twenty Wildlife Management Areas. all to the north Unit A through D2E. Thence southward across the state looking to lower deer densities in fourteen WMA's. Yup. There are too many deer according to the plan across most of the state. I hope to help the plan this year.
The NH Turkey season is open as well. Well, there are a lot of turkeys now. Here again up from a few dozen when I first was hired at Fish and Game in 1976. A batch of twenty-five had been released the year before along the Connecticutt River. So likely less than a hundred turkeys when I was hired. I have played a small part in the turkey program thanks to the turkey biologist Ted Walski . Ted, once the population had grown sufficiently by the early 1980's, began the trap and transferring of turkeys. I worked at the headquarters in Concord until 1988. Ted would capture some turkeys, box them up and send them to HQ. Our job was to release them where he wanted them released. So, I released batches of turkeys through the 80's. Ted did the work HQ staff simply had to release them. Now, what, 50,000 turkeys. It has been a wonderful time to be a wildlife biologist in New Hampshire.
And bear numbers up from 1,200 to close to 7,000 now. Eagles from zero to around 70 nests. Terns from a dozen nesting pairs to over 3,000. Falcons zero to a couple dozen pairs. Ospreys from fewer than ten pairs to over fifty pairs. I've chipped in here and there on most of these recoveries. Yes, a great time to be connected to New Hampshire's outdoors.
And haven't the folks come out to enjoy the wonders of wild all since the pandemic hit three years ago. I hope they realize that it has been thankful to the funding by this state's sportswomen and men, yes hunters, fisherman and trappers that have funded much of this work. Yes, there is some significant and crucial non-game funding, but it's pretty much the sportswomen and men who actually keep the lights on at Fish and Game. So, a big THANK YOU from me to all our hunters, fishermen and trappers.
NH FISH AND GAME DEPARTMENT Brontosaurus is Wild. (VIDEO)
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read the note
Deer Brook is Flowing Good Now. (VIDEO)