Moose Expansion Expected in Adirondacks
LAKE DESOLATION, N.Y. Mark Sharer hiked a few hundred yards through forest to marshland and a pond at the southeastern edge of the Adirondacks, using binoculars to scan the rim of trees for moose.
"There's just a lot of animals missing from our ecosystem. It's too bad," he said. Like wolves and cougars, moose were hunted out of New York more than a century ago. But the big herbivores are back, having wandered into New York's northern forests from Canada and New England over the past 30 years.
State conservation officials say the Adirondacks are on the verge of a moose boom, just like New Hampshire and Vermont, evidenced in part by a recent spate of collisions with cars. That doesn't mean you can just tromp to a likely spot to see Bullwinkle yet, though you may find a calling card underfoot.
Sharer, a wildlife painter, hiked around the edge of the marsh and found a pile of scat, similar to but larger than deer droppings, near a stream. "We have evidence," he said.
"Lake Desolation and the Lake George area are two of the southernmost areas where we have little focal points of moose," said Ken Kogut, wildlife manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation Region 5.
Other areas farther west are the Perkins Clearing north of Wells, the old Forge area and the forest north of Saranac Lake, as well as the old Domtar paper company tract in the northeastern Adirondacks. "They're spread pretty much all over the park," he said.
At least six moose have been hit and killed by cars, trucks and even a train this summer and fall. Two others were found dead. Another moose died when it was removed from Watertown for relocation to Cranberry Lake, according to the DEC.
"What it reflects is we have a big enough population now we're seeing this kind of accident rate," Kogut said. The Department of Transportation may be asked for some highway signs to warn drivers, since the 600 to 1,200 pound animals can be deadly crashing through windshields, and they're hard to see at night.
But it's too soon to crank up the buses for moose-peeping tours. There are only an estimated 200 to 400 of the animals statewide, Kogut said.
"We do believe we're right on the cusp of a major population expansion of moose in the Adirondacks," he said. "We're paralleling a similar population expansion that was seen in New Hampshire, followed by Vermont about 15 years ago."
The North American Moose Foundation, in Mackay, Idaho, estimates there are 1 million in the northern forests across North America and up to 3 million worldwide, many in Scandinavia and Russia.
New Hampshire had about 15 moose by the mid-1800s because of unregulated hunting and forest clear-cutting. There are about 7,000 now and a limited hunt after the fall rutting season to help manage the numbers, said Jane Vachon, spokeswoman for the state's Fish and Game Department.
"We didn't ship them in. It's not like the turkeys. We brought in 25 turkeys in the 1970s and now we have 30,000," Vachon said, citing another wildlife restoration success story. "Needless to say, we're expanding the turkey hunt."
New Hampshire records about 250 moose collisions with one human fatality annually. A recent state study found crashes accounted for 26 percent of moose killed, hunting 18 percent and winter ticks 41 percent, she said. "We've got some public safety issues."
In New York, the repopulation began in the 1980s with wandering bulls so lonely that they sometimes associated with cattle and even pigs, Kogut said. Between reproduction and ongoing immigration, conservation officials believe they are approaching critical mass.
The DEC endorsed a policy in 1993 to support the return of moose to New York's 14 northern counties, without shipping them in to speed the process. Hunting is illegal here, where the adults have no known predators.
Vermont, estimated to have about 5,000 moose, and Maine, with about 29,000, both have limited hunting seasons.
Source: Associated Press