October is the annual breeding season, "the rut" for the largest denizens of New Hampshire's North Country: Moose. It's also the annual moose hunting season.
Following the initial recovery of moose populations, an annual moose hunt has occurred since 1988. That first year, 75 permits were issued for a three-day hunt in the North Country only. Last year, 400 moose permit hunters took 290 moose.
This year 275 coveted moose hunting permits were awarded by lottery from among more than 13,400 applicants for the nine-day season.
But those 275 permits are less than half the number of moose permits available during 2006 and '07 because moose populations have declined recently due to severe winter tick infestations. Anemia and blood loss are sickening and killing moose and compromising the immune systems of those that do survive.
According to Kristine Rines, NH Fish and Game moose project leader, it had been typical for a single moose to carry some 30,000 ticks. Last year, that number increased fivefold! The moose winter tick explosion is due in part to recent mild winters with increased larval tick survival.
Monitoring moose populations allows wildlife managers to adjust the number of hunting permits to regulate statewide moose numbers while maintaining a sustainable population and insuring public safety. One silver lining is the number of statewide moose/vehicle collisions decreased 20% last year as compared to the previous five year average.