December 15, 2013

Moose returning to New York

Moose once inhabited northern New York in great numbers. But, due to habitat destruction and relentless hunting, they were eliminated during the 19th Century. It’s widely accepted that the last Adirondack moose was an 800-pound cow shot near Raquette Lake in 1861. Two attempts at re-establishing a population by releasing them in Hamilton County, one in 1894 to 1895 and the other in 1902 to 1903, failed.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that moose returned, probably due to reduced logging and an increase in sustainable forest-management practices both in and out of the Adirondack Park. This resulted in the recovery of habitat at a time when range is diminishing due to encroachment by humans in nearby areas, especially Canada. 

Records of their breeding began in 1990 and, since 2007, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been conducting early winter aerial surveys over moose habitat in the northeastern Adirondacks. DEC has also been asking hunters, trappers and the public to report locations and numbers when moose are sighted.

The moose population in New York is now estimated at upwards of 800 and growing. And, since calves generally remain with their mothers for about a year until the mother calves again, and individuals other than adult males sometimes herd together in winter, reports by observers of multiple animals moving together continue to increase. 

Unfortunately, moose populations have been declining across much of their southernmost North American range and their fate in many of these areas is in question. While the reasons vary with location, scientists agree that warmer, shorter winters are part of the underlying cause.

Moose amass a considerable quantity of body fat in the months leading up to winter, and when temperatures rise above 23 degrees they must expend substantial amounts of energy just trying to stay cool, which can lead to exhaustion and death.

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