Bull moose in Hamilton County, NY. Photo by Rich Nelson.
Re-establishment of a moose population in New York is generally viewed as a positive sign of a healthier, more complete natural system, but there are potential problems associated with their return. Moose may endanger themselves and people when they move across highways or into developed areas. They may also damage agricultural crops and private property, harm livestock, and damage regenerating forests.
Moose Response Manual
New York State Moose Response Manual
Balancing the needs and benefits of moose with public safety and protection of property is the goal of a new guidance document prepared by DEC staff. This "Moose Response Manual (PDF, 540 kb)" provides local law enforcement authorities with information on appropriate actions to take if a moose is reported in their community. This manual contains information to help DEC staff and other interested parties address various situations involving moose, including: Moose Observations and Sightings, Moose in or near High Traffic Areas, Moose in an Urban Area, Moose in an Enclosed Structure, Aggressive Moose, Moose Calf Appears Orphaned or Separated from Cow, Sick or Injured Moose, and Moose - Agriculture Conflicts. Each situation included contains background information and a list of recommended actions that will be useful in resolving it.
Moose Damage to Forest Regeneration
As the moose population grows and expands, there is the potential for damage to regenerating forests from moose browsing on young hardwood trees and scraping bark on larger trees. The photos below show this type of damage already occurring on private timber lands in Franklin County.
Moose browse on young red maple trees.
Bark stripped by a moose.
Occasionally a moose will wander into an urban or congested area where it poses a danger to itself and humans. If there is no reasonable escape route for the moose, DEC may decide to immobilize it with drugs and move it to suitable moose habitat for release. This process carries some risk of injury or death for the moose, so it is only attempted when no alternative exists. The moose shown below had to be moved twice in one year, once from the Saratoga Race Track, and the second time from a residential area in Queensbury adjacent to the busy I-87 highway.
DEC monitors moose mortalities to assess the effects on population changes, and to document the presence of diseases and parasites. Moose carcasses or organs are collected from most moose found dead and these are closely examined to determine the cause of death and to check for the presence of diseases and parasites, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, brainworm, liver flukes, lungworm, heartworm, and winter ticks. Most known moose mortalities in New York are caused by collisions with motor vehicles (see table). Other causes include brainworm, heat stress, and illegal shootings. Adult moose have no natural predators in New York, but coyotes and black bears take some newborn moose calves.
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Surveys of Moose Abundance and Distribution
DEC conducts periodic aerial surveys in the northeastern Adirondacks to assess moose population changes. These surveys have been done since 2007 to establish a baseline from which to compare future surveys to detect changes in population density. Flights are done with either a helicopter or a fixed wing aircraft over known moose habitat in early winter when there is less than thirty inches of snow cover. Moose tend to stay in open hardwood habitats until snow depths exceed thirty inches, then they seek shelter in stands of conifers where they are difficult to see from the air. Due to the high cost and difficult logistics of aerial surveys, it is unlikely that these will be expanded to cover much more of the Adirondacks. So DEC is also using other survey methods to assess moose populations more broadly in New York.
Since 2007, DEC has also surveyed successful deer hunters about their observations of moose. Hunters and trappers are asked to provide numbers and locations for any moose they see while deer hunting or trapping. Similar surveys are used in other states in the Northeast as a reliable index to moose populations. Results of the New York surveys show an increase in the number of moose seen by deer hunters and trappers over time. This survey method will likely continue in the future as an accurate, inexpensive method of assessing moose population trends.