The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council Friday voted 8-0 to reduce moose permits by less than 3 percent to 2,080 for the coming season, after three straight years of significant permit cuts.

Only three of Maine’s 24 hunting districts had permits cut. Those three districts in the Midcoast region (numbers 23, 25 and 26) collectively had 60 permits cut because hunting success and the number of moose-vehicle collisions have fallen.

The department has cut moose permits 49 percent since 2013 – from 4,085 to 2,080 – largely because of the winter tick parasite that has killed off moose in northern New England.

But after a winter when there was less moose mortality in the state’s moose-collar study, the herd appears to have fared well from winter ticks, said Maine Moose Biologist Lee Kantar.

Kantar said 14 of the 73 calves – or 19 percent – in the radio-collar study died this winter.

By comparison, in 2014, 22 out of 30 collared moose calves died due to the parasite for a 73 percent mortality, and in 2015, 21 of 35 collared moose calves died largely from winter ticks for a 60 percent mortality rate. And last year, 42 of 70 calves died for a 60 percent mortality rate.

The window for moose mortality due to the winter tick infestation lasts another two weeks, but Kantar does not expect much more mortality, if any.

Kantar said the very dry summer last year, during the worst drought in 15 years, and the early snowfall this fall killed winter ticks on the landscape.

If ticks are not able to attach to moose in large numbers in the fall, he said the parasite can’t take a toll on the moose population.

New Hampshire and Vermont biologists are partnering with Maine biologists in the five-year moose radio-collar program that is studying the parasite’s impact.

The radio-collar study allows biologists to locate calves as soon as they die (from the radio-collar signal) to determine the cause of death.

Kantar said scientists studying winter tick believe lower moose densities and colder climates help prevent the parasites from thriving.

“With moose the hypothesis that is being talked about has to do with climate, but it’s complicated. It seems spring and fall affect the winter ticks, that and high moose densities,” Kantar said.

In the study area around Moosehead Lake the study is in its fourth year, and in northern Maine it is the second year of the five-year study.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

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