Energy & Environment

As Vermont’s moose search for mates, drivers urged to stay alert

moose
A moose in the Vermont woods. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife photo

On the prowl for mates in September and October, moose are more active than usual, prompting officials with Vermont’s Department of Fish & Wildlife to urge Vermonters to drive with caution. 

While much of the moose population is concentrated in the northeastern corner of Vermont, and moose generally stay within a 10-square-mile area, “it would be nothing for a bull moose to go 50, 60 miles searching for a mate,” said Nick Fortin, a wildlife biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. 

“Everyone should be aware,” he said.

On Vermont highways, drivers hit 49 moose in 2021 and have already hit 23 in 2022, according to the department. Since 1985, 19 people have died after hitting moose on major Vermont roads.

Moose are particularly likely to appear on the following stretches of highway:

  • Route 105 from Island Pond to Bloomfield
  • Route 114 from East Burke to Canaan
  • Route 2 from Lunenburg to East St. Johnsbury
  • Interstate 91 at Sheffield Heights
  • Interstate 89 from Bolton to Montpelier
  • Route 12 from Worcester to Elmore.
  • Route 118 near Belvidere Corners and the Route 109 intersection

Other than hunting, car crashes are the leading cause of death for moose in Vermont, according to the department. Since September 1980, which marked the beginning of the state’s moose study, car crashes have caused 70% of moose deaths that weren’t related to hunting. Another 9% were the result of poaching. 

Moose are still suffering from an explosion of winter ticks. Last year, in one part of Maine, which hosts the largest moose population in the lower 48 states, 90% of calves didn’t survive their first year, according to Maine Public Radio.

Earlier this summer, Vermont Fish & Wildlife issued 100 moose hunting permits for use in a wildlife management unit in the northeastern corner of the state, predicted to result in a harvest of 51 to 65 moose of the roughly 1,000 moose in that area.  

“Moose density in (that area) remains well above one moose per square mile, significantly higher than any other part of the state,” Fortin said in a statement at the time. “Moose densities greater than one per square mile support high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival.” 

In the same management unit, a University of Vermont study that surveyed moose between 2017 and 2019 showed that winter ticks have been a driving cause of declining moose health. While adult moose remain relatively healthy, birth rates were low, and less than half of the calves survived their first winter. 

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Emma Cotton

About Emma

Emma Cotton is a Report for America corps member who covers the environment, climate change, energy and agriculture. Previously, she covered Rutland and Bennington counties for VTDigger, wrote for the Addison Independent and served as assistant editor of Vermont Sports and VT Ski + Ride magazines. Emma studied marine science and journalism at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Email: emma@vtdigger.org

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