Vermont's moose mismanagement
An open letter to Deb Markowitz, secretary Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
I am writing to request that you take two urgent steps: 1) Use your office and authority over the Department of Fish and Wildlife to cancel this year's moose season and 2) appoint a special investigator to launch an inquiry into the decision-making process for this year's moose hunt to determine whether state laws and public policy were violated in the process.
I make these requests for the following reasons:
1. Vermont's moose population is in crisis; it has been in decline over the last 10 years but most significantly the population has been below the minimum carrying capacity threshold since 2009. That threshold minimum of 3000 animals has been long-standing public policy. Current population estimates hover around 2000 animals.
2. Despite the severe population deficit, the Department of Fish and Wildlife's (DFW) recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Board (FWB) of 160 moose permits (some 8% of the current population) was accepted by the Board this April without a single vote against the proposal despite a host of alarms going off.
3. Vermont's moose population is facing serious threats-winter ticks, brain worm, heat-stress due to a warming climate but mostly unrelenting hunting pressure has been the key factor in the population decline. Since 2009, the first year of the population going into the red, 3,854 moose permits were approved by the FWB with nearly 2,000 killed, pushing the population deeper and deeper into deficit.
4. Most troubling is the fact that calf mortality appears to be off the charts. A recent study of collared moose calves in Maine showed a 75% mortality rate. In New Hampshire in the past year a stunning 80 percent of collared study moose calves died.
5. The stated goal of this year's decision by DFW/ FWB is " designed to increase moose numbers throughout the state." In what Orwellian world does an aggressive kill quota of a species in decline coupled with likely very high calf mortality result in a stable and increasing population? The biology doesn't support it neither does basic arithmetic or simple logic.
6. And perhaps most troubling of all is that the decision by the FWB was chiefly informed by the categorization of this year's permit quota by DFW leadership as, " ..very conservative." In fact, of the three key moose states in New England, Vermont's quota is actually the most aggressive. New Hampshire with a moose population twice that of Vermont's is releasing 71 permits-less than half the number Vermont is releasing. And Vermont's quota, as compared to Maine's with some 65,000 animals, is nearly 3 times as aggressive as Maine's as a percentage of population.
7. Did the FWB approve the DFW proposal because it was falsely categorized as "very conservative?"
8. Vermont has been deemed the state with the highest percentage of wildlife watchers. Most Vermonters simply want to see a moose, yet for over a decade the odds get worse each year. Isn't this year's aggressive kill proposal contrary to all reasonable expectations held by the vast majority of Vermonters? And how did our management decision-making process become so thoroughly broken?
I implore you to do all you can to halt this year's kill so that this state's moose population has some small chance of recovering? Doesn't that serve all interests long term including hunters?
— Walter M. Medwid Derby