Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Moose Carcass

Our friend Ann and I and our dogs meet up often for a local walk. We've been returning regularly to a favorite stretch of the Sweet Trail between Durham and Newmarket. The trail is surprisingly wild. A large animal carcass set back in the woods from the trail attracts the attention of Persica and Kodi each time we pass nearby. I think Persica led Kodi to the carcass the first time, although Kodi never passes up the chance to gnaw on a deer rib or leg.

Today part of the carcass was next to the trail. I noticed that Kodi was chewing on something and sure enough it was the entire skull and part of the vertebrae. Ann and I looked closer and realized it was a moose skull, a small moose, maybe a yearling. The antlers had clearly been sawed off, by the hunter that tagged this moose last fall, we presume. The Sweet Trail passes by many wetlands and I mentioned the wildness, so it doesn't surprise me that a moose was wandering through this area last fall. It also could be that someone happened upon this moose after it died and took the antlers, moose do succumb naturally to several ailments.

According to New Hampshire Fish and Game moose biologist Kris Rines, people in the southeastern part of the state--our area--don't want too many moose. Ann and I--and probably the hunters--disagree. A few more moose would be fine. However, we might not have much say or sway over how many moose live here. Winter ticks, warmer temperatures, and other parasites may limit their population to cooler climes.

Kris recently gave the keynote at the annual meeting of Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, a local land trust for which I am a Board member. Her talk on moose was a little sobering for the moose. They face many challenges, not least of which are winter ticks. A single moose can become infested with tens of thousands of ticks in winter. Such a moose becomes preoccupied with scratching, licking and rubbing its skin and also becomes anemic from loss of blood. Compounding the tick problem are warming temperatures from climate change. Hot summers and warmer winters helps the tick and stresses the moose.

It makes you shiver thinking about so many ticks on a single moose. Moose evolved with the winter tick so they can make it through if not too stressed and develop a new coat come summer. I hope moose can hang in there as they are such a curious looking creature and otherwise so well-adapted to northern forests.

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