AUGUSTA, Maine — Monday was the official start to moose hunting season in far northern and eastern Maine, with the rest of the state opening in the coming weeks.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife issued 4,080 permits for 2022, the second most ever and most since 2013.
MDIFW Wildlife Director Nathan Webb said the Maine moose herd is estimated between 50,000-70,000, a healthy number. But a growing number of moose — especially calves — are falling victim to winter ticks.
For fall 2022, Webb's office has implemented its second “adaptive hunt” in as many years. Additional permits have been issued in far northwestern Maine — known as Zone 4 to the department — to see if reducing the herd can also reduce the spike in winter ticks that biologists have been tracking in that region.
"It’s a common approach to use hunting to manage population numbers of various wildlife," Webb said. "And, for Moose, we believe that part of the reason we’re seeing such an impact from winter tick in parts of the state is because moose numbers are quite high."
State biologists set up shop at tagging stations throughout the state during moose season, studying things like age, antler growth, ovarian health, and tick infestations as hunters brought in the massive animals.
By the time NEWS CENTER Maine left Webb's office at 11:30 a.m. on opening day, 32 moose had already been tagged since dawn.
Lee Kantar is Maine's moose biologist. He pulled over to speak with NEWS CENTER Maine before traveling to a Fort Kent tagging station.
It’s a dirty job, but he spends time with dead moose so he can also help others live healthier lives. Kantar said it still strikes him every time he sees one of the massive mammals.
"They're a beautiful animal," Kantar said. "And they’re really symbolic of the north woods and the north woods of Maine."
As symbolic as a flash of blaze orange through the fall trees.