Moose on the move, motorists advised to keep aware
By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent | May 19. 2017 12:19AM
This sign on Route 16 in Ossipee reminds motorists to be aware that moose can stray onto the highway. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)
In the past week, police responded to five moose/car collisions in the White Mountain towns of Carroll and neighboring Jefferson, according to Sgt. Tadd Bailey of the Carroll Police Department. Two occurred within 12 hours and all happened at night.
In 2016, the department handled just three moose/vehicle accidents, down from the 30 averaged between 2005 and 2009.
Kent Gustafson, wildlife program supervisor with the Fish & Game Department, said May is historically the month when the most moose are hit by vehicles.
“People really need to understand the risk associated with it,” Gustafson said.
An adult bull moose can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds. Their dark coloring, coupled with the fact that they rarely look toward vehicles as they cross the road — creating no tell-tale headlight reflection — contribute to the likelihood of a collision.
When struck by a passenger vehicle, the giant animals often hit the hood and roof. Front-seat occupants have been killed when the legs of a moose have smashed through the windshield.
Bailey said his department is urging motorists traveling in the North Country to be especially cautious from dusk to dawn, when moose move out of the woods in search of newly sprouted food.
“People should be driving below the speed limit so that they have time to react,” he said.
Having logged plenty of miles patrolling during hours of darkness, Bailey recommends drivers focus on the center line and fog line. If either suddenly disappears, chances are there is a moose in the road.
Last year, a Carroll officer collided with a bull moose. While the officer was not injured, the crash caused $11,000 in damage to the cruiser, Bailey said.
Spring is prime time for collisions, Gustafson said, because cow moose are preparing to give birth, and before doing so they drive off last year’s offspring. Wandering in their confusion over suddenly having to fend for themselves, the yearlings frequently cross roads.
Moose are also attracted to the roadside by the presence of salt, the residual of winter highway maintenance.
With the state’s moose population declining, Bailey said he fears drivers may become complacent about the possibility of encountering one.
The population is currently estimated at between 3,500 and 3,800. Most moose are in the Great North Woods, but Gustafson says they can be found in even the most urban areas.
In the past week’s crashes, Bailey said, none of the drivers was seriously hurt, but all five moose were killed or had to be put down.
“People get upset sometimes and ask us why we can’t take it to the veterinarian,” Bailey said.
The department keeps a “roadkill list,” of people who want the meat and are willing to come to the scene of a collision and butcher the carcass. While there aren’t too many takers in the heat when the meat will quickly spoil, Bailey said, when temperatures drop interest piques.
“There are almost fistfights in the fall,” Bailey said.