Hunters will likely bag more moose in Vermont this fall. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VFWD) recently issued its 2023 moose harvest recommendation to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Board. The agency is suggesting a staggering 80 percent increase in moose permits and would like to issue 180 moose hunting tags compared to the 100 issued in 2022.

The moose hunting would be confined to two big game units in the northeast part of the state, where moose population densities are high. The VFWD recommends offering 100 antlerless tags and 80 either-sex tags. Approximately 1,000 moose are estimated to reside in the area. The rest of the state does not have dense enough moose populations to warrant a harvest, according to VFWD.

“The Department’s goal is to improve the health of moose in northeastern Vermont by reducing winter
tick abundance and their impacts on moose health, survival, and birth rate,” explains the VFWD in its proposal. “Winter ticks are a host-dependent parasite with moose being the primary host responsible for major fluctuations in winter tick densities. Therefore, a reduction in moose population density decreases the number of available hosts which in turn decreases the number of winter ticks on the landscape. Moose population reduction will be necessary to break the winter tick cycle and improve the health of moose in this region.”

Vermont is not the only state in the northeast struggling to manage the impact of winter ticks on moose; Maine and New Hampshire are both experiencing severe outbreaks of the parasite, which can lower birth rates and decrease the chances of survival for calves. Winter ticks are not new to the region, but their outbreaks have intensified in recent years due to warmer weather and shorter winters.

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“If we could get rid of winter ticks, our moose would be very healthy,” VFWD wildlife biologist Nick Fortin told Vermont Public. “They have a phenomenal habitat. They just have too many parasites right now…We want to get there. We want to get our moose healthy.”