Climate change is one of the most difficult challenges facing humankind – as well as all life on our planet. As the effects of climate change continue to grow more severe, New Hampshire is seeing diminishing numbers of wildlife and plantlife alike. The state’s moose population is seeing a particularly drastic dwindling of numbers, declining by 47 percent over the last 27 years.
In the past, New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department relied solely on observations from deer hunters in order to gauge the species’ population size, but as concerns grow, so too will the methods to acquire the necessary data. In an effort to collect a more accurate count of the state’s moose population, researchers and state officials have announced that drones and trail cams will be utilized as part of a new moose surveillance program, which started this summer and will continue for the next three years.
“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.
His biggest concern? That the shorter, warmer winters of the last few years are creating environments for parasites to thrive. “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.”
The new surveillance program has been built upon past UNH studies which uncovered unprecedented death rates among moose calves. Between 2014 and 2016, these studies revealed that death rates rose by more than 50 percent – also finding that reproductive rates among the adult moose had severely dropped across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
Henry Jones, a biologist from Fish and Game who co-runs the new study alongside Moll, believes this program will be crucial in establishing monitoring methods in the state. “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.
Cameras will be installed throughout the northern half of New Hampshire at approximately 140 sites. Drones will also be used, with the first launch taking place this winter. A report on the collected data is expected to be released late spring 2024.
This program is a joint effort by the University of New Hampshire and the state’s Fish and Game Department – funded by a grant from the U.S. Sport, Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program.