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Health of herd is among annual moose hunt worries

Special to the Union Leader

August 19. 2013 12:38AM

PITTSBURG — In the northernmost reaches of New Hampshire’s Coos County, the moose population appears to be somewhat less affected by the parasites that have decimated the moose population elsewhere in the Granite State.

But as the October moose hunt approaches once again, the arguments against the annual event are growing louder in some parts of the North Country.

Pittsburg Selectman Steve Ellis, for example, wants the hunt suspended, if not eliminated. He said Friday the local economy depends on tourism. When visitors travel through on family trips and bus tours, moose are among the attractions they most want to see.

“We need the moose population,” said Ellis, noting that the state’s Fish and Game Department acknowledges the herd has dropped from about 7,500 just five years ago to the present estimated count of 4,500. That’s believed to be the lowest number in the 25-year history of the hunt.

Hunters are chosen by lottery, and the number of permits to be awarded is determined every two years based, in part, on the health of the herd. There were 275 permits issued for this year’s Oct. 19-27 hunt, the same number as last year. Five years ago, the number was 675.

“Mother Nature has stepped in already; we don’t need the moose hunt to reduce the population further. We can stop the hunt right now,” said Ellis, whose father, Dr. William A. Ellis, was a New Hampshire Fish and Game commissioner in the 1940s.

Moose have been clobbered by an explosion in the tick population, with some moose carrying more than 100,000 ticks.

Kristine Rines, Fish and Game’s moose project leader since 1985, said ticks are literally bleeding the herd, causing anemia and sickening the large animals, sometimes fatally. Brain worm is another mooseparasite.

Ellis said he’ll continue to press the case for fewer hunting permits or a suspension of the hunt.“It will be discussed,” Rines said. “We have to determine the health of the herd, and we get that information in the fall,” she said.

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