CONCORD, N.H. — The chances of winning the lottery were less than 1 percent. But 33 permit holders randomly selected from a pool of over 6,000 have their golden ticket in hand, allowing them to participate in New Hampshire’s annual moose hunt.
The hunt, which lasts for nine days, began on Saturday. New Hampshire has held the hunt for more than 30 years, starting in 1988 when 75 permits were issued.
Last year, 27 moose were harvested during the hunt, a success rate of about 63 percent, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.
The state’s moose population has fluctuated over time. In the 1950s, there were only 50 moose in the state. By the time the hunt began in 1988, it had risen to around 1,600 moose. Currently, Fish and Game estimates there are between 3,000 to 4,000 moose in the state, although moose are still listed among the species of greatest conservation need in New Hampshire.
But, according to Fish and Game, pressure from hunting isn’t the reason moose populations are struggling, and eliminating the hunt wouldn’t give them a boost. Rather, moose are at risk because of threats including climate change and loss of habitat.
“The concern is if habitat impacts and climate changes continue unchecked, it will result in an environment that is no longer capable of supporting moose,” the Fish and Game website says.
In fact, changes that have already occurred to climate, habitat, and parasite loads mean that “remaining moose populations will not be able to be sustained at historic levels,” according to Fish and Game.
Winter ticks are one of the parasites that can cause moose mortality, and there’s ongoing research about the kind of weather and moose density that could cause an “irreversible” decline in moose population. They’re mostly a problem in the southern part of the state.
“The best ways to reduce the impacts of winter ticks would be to add back the three weeks of winter we have lost due to climate change, or reduce moose density,” according to Fish and Game.
Brainworm parasites are another big problem for moose in New Hampshire, mostly impacting moose in the southern part of the state where deer populations are denser. Deer, who aren’t harmed by the parasite, carry it and can pass it on to moose, for whom it is almost always lethal.
The biggest things you can do to help? Fish and Game recommends learning about climate change, working to conserve open space and support young forests, and advocate for balancing moose and deer populations.
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