Monday is the first day of moose season in northern and eastern Maine, and hundreds of hunters are expected to take part over the next six days. The hunt is divided into four segments, and continues by region around Maine until the third week in November.
Last year, more than 1,500 hunters harvested a moose. Data from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife show that Maine’s moose population is holding steady and that moose-car collisions around the state are way down. As first reported by the Portland Press Herald, collisions are down dramatically over the last 15 or 20 years, says IFW moose biologist Lee Kantar.
“There was a high point for moose collisions back around the year 2000, and there’s been a downward trend in those collisions from that point on,” he says.
Data from the Maine Department of Transportation show that last year there were 287 car-moose crashes, compared with nearly 650 a decade earlier. Kantar says there are several reasons to explain the downward trend, including fewer moose in certain parts of the state, because of calf mortality caused by winter ticks, but also because of steps taken by the DOT to cut back vegetation for better visibility and to identify high-strike areas.
“Department of Transportation has done a great job with getting the word out over the last 18 years as well as dealing with particular bad sites, but you know, in general, and people are saying this up north here, moose in the far north are pretty stable and doing fine, and then there’s other areas of the state where it’s been tough on calves,” he says.
Aroostook County is the area with the highest number of moose collisions according to the DOT — close to 2,000 of them between 2005 to 2014.
“The first one was in Oct. 2008. The second one was in probably in Nov. 2013, and then this one was June 2018,” says Chace Jackson of Allagash, talking about his three separate collisions with three different moose.
If that sounds frightening, Jackson’s dad, state Sen. Troy Jackson, has hit five moose in his travels to and from the State House. Other members of the Jackson family have also had their share of crashes with moose. Fortunately, none of them has been hurt.
But the same cannot be said of the moose, who are often just a short walk away from the safety of the woods.
“The last collision I was in, I think the moose probably died in two or three minutes. And you know, it was one of those things where if had been in the daytime I would have been able to see it much sooner, but by the time it came into my field of vision at all it was just right in front of me and there was no stopping for it,” says Chace Jackson.
Jackson says it was a gory scene and upsetting to sit alone in the dark in his wrecked car waiting for state police to arrive. When an officer did show up, Jackson says they recognized each other from his previous moose accident. It turns out he, too, had been in three separate moose collisions.
Jackson says where he lives, these accidents are so common that people often don’t bother to share the news when they occur.
Data show fatalities from moose collisions are also down, so state officials are hoping the trend continues. Maine’s IFW is currently in the midst of an extensive, multiyear study to examine factors affecting moose reproduction and survival.