The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is gearing up for what will be an official moose management plan.
The agency will oversee a joint study by Cornell University and the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in hopes of getting a true measure of New York’s moose population and establishing a long-term moose management plan that may, or may not, involve hunting.
While there are other moose-related factors to contend with, DEC’s Senior Wildlife Biologist Gordon Batcheller says that population related factors are at the top of the list.
“We estimate now that there between 600 and 800 moose in New York, but that’s what we call a very soft estimate. It is not statistically sound; it is based on regional reports and estimates on what’s out there.
“Right now were developing the scope of the work,” Batcheller said of the forthcoming moose research. “There’s a lot of scientific questions about what our objectives are and how we are going to do it. How much is it going to cost? There’s different techniques for counting moose. We can go up in an aircraft, do DNA work, there’s all kinds of different scientific ways of doing it. So we’re in the discussion stage; it’s very preliminary right now.”
The population factor, again, is the key component.
But Batcheller says there’s more to it than just counting the moose that are out there now, or during the research period.
“We know that if we’re going to develop a good long-term sensible moose management plan we need to know not only the population estimate, that has to be a good number, we have to have the rate of growth,” he said. “So, you need two things: the base population levels and the rate of growth.”
Assuming the research can get a better handle on the moose population, attention will then turn to a number of other factors, especially how the moose population impacts humans.
“In New York, we want to know where things are headed in the future,” Batcheller said. “We believe they’re expanding slowly. We’d like to better understand where they’re going to expand, and if that’s true, what the potential growth rate may be and, ultimately, how that would affect people — whether it’s moose/car collisions, damaged agriculture or damage to forests. We want to understand that.
“We know that whenever moose are seen on a public roadway in New York it’s a popular attraction. People come from miles around to see that moose. So, there’s implications for tourism as well,” Batcheller said.
Another key question sportsmen have regarding moose is if there will ever be a hunting season for moose in the Adirondacks or beyond. Vermont and New Hampshire have had moose hunting seasons for decades. Those hunting seasons are extremely popular with both resident and non-resident hunters.
“We will at least discuss it and look at the options,” Batcheller said. “We know that anything we do with moose, there will be a high interest with the public. We’re going to make sure that the questions we anticipate we can answer. Right now we can’t answer some fundamental questions and we feel we need to change that.
“So, we’re embarking on research to understand moose populations,” he continued. “We’re going to start out with the fundamentals and then over some length of time, it might take five years, we hope to have a better understanding of change. Moose populations may be changing. We will develop a moose management plan.”
Once again, Batcheller reiterated that it starts with an accurate look at the moose population and growth rate. Whether that can be determined or not is yet to be seen.
In comparison to deer populations, which are also just an estimate, in the Northern Zone DEC uses deer harvest statistics from hunters as part of a number of measures to gauge the population.
Moose will pose another set of challenges but Batcheller says the time has come.
“We want to know where is the moose population headed? Where are they gonna end up living? Are they going to expand beyond northern New York? When moose expand they can cause a lot of difficulty for people because they might follow a transportation corridor. So, then there’s implications for people driving, there are implications for commercial forestry, some implications for agriculture, so collectively, when you have a big animal like this with somewhat of an unknown population status — but we know they’re here, we know they’re reproducing — we feel we have to have good data on what’s going on.”
Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.