BY SARAH KINNEY
Gorham Moose Tours have been very successful this year despite a slow decline in the New Hampshire moose population.
They boast a 95 percent success rate of seeing a moose and in July, tours have seen 104 moose, 34 deer, and a fox.
However, with winters getting shorter, moose populations have been decreasing.
NH Fish and Game report that moose hunting permits were sharply decreased because of the decline.
In 1997, there were 2.69 moose sightings per 100 hunter hours in the White Mountain area, the goal set by the public was three sightings per 100 hunter hours. In that season, 170 hunting permits for moose were issued. By 2003, the population dropped to 1.57 moose sightings with a goal of 2.3 and about 100 permits issued. There was a spike in sightings in 2006 with 2.58 sightings and a goal of 2.3. That season, 145 permits were issued. In 2012, there were 1.36 sightings per 100 hunter hours, with a goal of 2.3. Only 55 permits were issued.
One of the causes of moose deaths is the winter tick. A moose can carry 10,000 to 120,000 ticks.
In “Wildlife Journal” Kristine Rines, Moose Project Leader for NH Fish and Game explained that the mild winters do not kill as many ticks, so moose are infested with them in increasing amounts.
If the ticks do not kill the moose, it can cause weigh loss to the point where female, cow, moose have reduced fertility rates.
Moose will also try to remove the ticks, but can open wounds in doing so that will lead to infection.
Automobiles and the brainworm parasite frequently kill moose. Black bears or coyotes occasionally kill moose calves.
This is not the first time the moose population has diminished.
The NH Fish and Game guide on moose explains that before European settlement, moose were more numerous than deer in NH. By the mid-1800s, fewer than 15 moose lived in the state. The moose population remained small until the early 1970s.
So if you haven’t seen a moose yet, now might be your best chance.
Gorham Moose Tours begin at 7 p.m. in July and August every day but Sunday and last three or more hours. The bus leaves from the Gorham Information Booth. The bus holds 14 people, but a second bus is available if needed. Advanced reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 466-3103. It costs $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 5-12, and $5 for children 4 and under. Reservations will be refunded with more than 48 hours notice from tour time. Visitors are encouraged to bring a camera. The bus is equipped with spotlights for nighttime viewing. Child safety seats are not available, so parents must supply their own for their children.
To spot moose on your own, NH Fish and Game recommends trying Route 3 north of Pittsburg to the Canadian border, Route16 north of Milan to the Maine Border, Route 26 east of Dixville Notch to the Maine Border, Route 112 from Lincoln east to the Bear Notch Road, and Route 110 north of Berlin to Rte 110A. They also recommend looking as dusk when moose will come to roadside marshes where salt licks are. NH Fish and Game reminds visitors to stay in their vehicle and not to approach the moose, as they are wild animals.