Helicopter crews radio-collaring Maine moose as next phase of study

For the past four years, wildlife biologist Lee Kantar has been compiling aerial survey data that has given state game managers a much better understanding of the state’s moose population.

Moose feed near Moosehead Lake in Maine. (BDN photo by Brian Feulner)

Moose feed near Moosehead Lake in Maine. (BDN photo by Brian Feulner)

On Tuesday the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s moose research project took another huge leap forward with the commencement of a much-anticipated effort that will provide biologists with even more information in the years ahead.

For the first time since the early 1980s, technicians are attaching radio collars to moose as part of a five-year project that will provide a closer look at the health of the state’s moose population, including key factors like adult and calf survival rates and reproductive rates, according to a DIF&W press release.

“Maine’s moose population is healthy and strong,” Kantar said in the release. “This research project is an important tool in managing Maine’s moose population and will benefit all who enjoy Maine’s moose.”

A moose stands in an open area of Maine's Wildlife Management District 19. Lee Kantar, a wildlife biologist for the Maine Department of inland fish and wildlife, performed a moose survey by helicopter in 2013. (BDN photo by Brian Feulner)

A moose stands in an open area of Maine’s Wildlife Management District 19. Lee Kantar, a wildlife biologist for the Maine Department of inland fish and wildlife, performed a moose survey by helicopter in 2013. (BDN photo by Brian Feulner)

The state has hired Aero Tech, a company that specializes in the capture and collaring of wild animals. A four-man crew out of New Mexico is in Maine to carry out the mission.

That crew is focusing on an area near Greenville. The crew, working from a helicopter, uses cartridge-launched nets and immobilization darts to capture female moose and calves.

This year the crew will capture and collar 30 adult female moose and 30 calves. According to the release, the Greenville area was chosen for the study because it is within the core moose range of the state, and earlier research indicates that the area has a lower cow-to-calf ration than other parts of Maine.

Two moose stand in the road in northern Penobscot County, September, 2013. (BDN photo by Brian Feulner)

Two moose stand in the road in northern Penobscot County, September, 2013. (BDN photo by Brian Feulner)

Kantar has been flying with the Maine Forest Service’s Air Operations Branch to scout and mark coordinates in Wildlife Management District 8, which will help the Aero Tech crew find moose to tag.

The GPS-enabled collars will transmit twice a day, which will enable biologists to track the movement of individual moose over time. Those collars are expected to transmit for four years.

If a collar does not move for an extended time, it will send a mortality signal, according to the release. At that point, biologists will rush to the site in order to find out why the moose died.

“Once we receive a mortality signal, we will locate the dead moose within 24 hours,” Kantar said.

And after moose give birth in May, biologists will know where the moose are and will conduct walk-in surveys of the calves, according to Kantar.

According to the DIF&W, this is the second time that moose have been radio-collared in the state. In the early 1980s, just after the state enacted a modern moose hunt, moose were collared in order to better understand the population’s range, according to the release.

 

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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.