The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board gave preliminary approval Wednesday night to issuing 14 moose hunting permits for the coming season — a mere fraction of last year's number and a reflection of the declining herd.
State biologists proposed the dramatic drop from 70 permits issued last year. Since 2005, the moose population has shrunk from about 4,800 to 1,700. Tick infestation, warmer winters and other factors are believed to be harming the population of the lumbering creatures.
Given their struggling status, even 14 permits is too many and the hunt should stop, some say. It's baffling why the Fish & Wildlife Department “continues to feel the need to put hunting pressures on a species that is truly imperiled in Vermont,” said Walter Medwid, founding member of the Vermont Wildlife Coalition.
Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter disagrees. He supported the proposal for 14 permits, noting that's the fewest the department has recommended since moose hunting was revived in 1993. It had been banned after the animals were nearly wiped out the late 1880s. They were rarely seen in Vermont until the 1980s. But by the 1990s they had made a solid comeback. Some started seeing them as a nuisance because of car accidents and trampled maple sugar tubing.
At the hunt's peak, in 2008, the state issued 1,260 permits.
This year, hunting would be allowed only in the Northeast Kingdom, where moose are most numerous.
Hunters generally have about a 50 percent success rate, so it's likely that seven or so moose would be taken, Porter said. "At that level, this will have virtually no impact on the moose," he said.
The board unanimously approved the Fish & Wildlife staff recommendation for 14 permits. The proposal will be debated at additional public hearings before a final vote in April. The moose season is in the fall.