New Hampshire moose study will use drones, cameras to monitor declining population
As the effects of climate change grow more severe, New Hampshire’s moose population is taking a big hit, declining by 47 percent from 1990 to 2017.
To get a more accurate count of the state’s moose population, researchers, along with state officials, will use drones and trail cams as part of a new moose surveillance program, which started last week and will continue for three years. Usually, Fish and Game relies on moose observations from deer hunters to gauge the population size.
“This is an iconic species of the Northeast. And so it's really imperative that we spend energy and time trying to monitor them to the best of our ability,” said Remington Moll, assistant professor of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of New Hampshire.
Shorter, warmer winters in recent years have created a thriving environment for ticks.
“These ticks draw out a huge amount of blood, and it really reduces the condition of the moose,” he said, “They become anemic, and they don't make it.”
This surveillance program builds on previous UNH studiesthat found unprecedented death rates among moose calves —more than 50% between 2014 and 2016, plus lower reproductive rates in adult moose across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Henry Jones, a biologist from Fish and Game who heads the study with Moll, says this program will be important in establishing moose monitoring methods in New Hampshire, because surveillance techniques vary across North America. This includes neighboring Maine.
“In Maine, they fly helicopter surveys to look at moose abundance. That is more challenging in Northern New Hampshire because of all the mountains,” he said.
They’re installing cameras throughout northern New Hampshire at about 140 sites, according to Moll, a process that will take several months.
The program is a joint effort by University of New Hampshire and New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Sport, Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program.