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Return Of The Adirondack Moose

11:44 AM, Nov 4, 2013   |    comments
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Moose In The Adirondacks Are Making A Steady Comeback.

For an animal that's not only quite large, but also an iconic symbol of the North, moose in the Adirondack Mountains can be very difficult to find.

Part of that has to do with the vast range of the area, over 6 million acres, but most of the blame for their scarcity falls on man.

Moose were once abundant in the region, but the forests critical to their survival were decimated in the 1800s, and unregulated hunting completed the devastation.

Extirpated from the region by 1860, and absent from the Adirondacks until the 1980's, wandering moose eventually began moving back into the area from neighboring states. The recovery of the moose today has gone hand in hand with the restoration of the forests. Connie Prickett of the ADK Nature Conservancy is studying the moose in the Adirondacks." Now these forests are regenerating beautifully, this is a story of restoration and recovery for forests, so for the moose to make a comeback after the forests have made a comeback is really exciting."

Heidi Kretser of The Wildlife Conservation Society is also researching the big mammals." Once there were proper hunting regulations in line and habitat started to come back, the moose population expanded from Northern Maine, down into New Hampshire, into Vermont and finally we had the first moose come into New York State down near Whitehall around 1980."

The present population of moose in the Adirondacks is thought to be about 800, but a really accurate count has been difficult to determine. Studying these forest giants is difficult for a variety of reasons, and the researchers currently conducting studies have their work cut out for them.

Other than trail cameras, they rarely get to see a live moose. Much of the knowledge they gain, explains Alissa Rafferty of the ADK Nature Conservancy, is from clues the animals leave behind.

"We do use some of the motion detecting cameras that have been pretty successful in collecting supplemental data. Tracking is another method and WCS has used their method of scat collecting, and using scat sniffing dogs," she explained.

In a pilot study, the Wildlife Conservation Society brought in the specially trained dogs to locate moose droppings. The study was highly successful and shows great promise for future research, says Kretser. "Once you have scat, there's so much information in it," she said. "You can amplify the DNA, you can identify the moose down to an individual, you can identify whether it was a male or a female, and you can look at how that particular moose is related to other moose in your sample."

One of the most critical aspects in the health of the moose is habitat. They need lots of room to roam, said Rafferty. "At the Nature Conservancy, we're involved with wildlife connectivity efforts, trying to maintain linkages for wide ranging mammals like moose to be able to move freely from protected lands."

For the moment, the future of the Adirondack moose is still in question, it's populace still tenuous at best. Rafferty says just getting a glimpse of these magnificent mammals in the wild make all the efforts at preserving them worthwhile. "It's very cool, I've seen one on this property driving on the roads and just two others in the Adirondacks, and I grew up here. So they are hard to see, but it's a very special experience when you do." 

Kretser agrees. "Overall, I think people do like the idea of natural re-colonization, and bringing back the wildlife that once roamed these great woods. It's been talked for wolves, it's been talked about for lynx, moose, it's been talked about for mountain lions! So there's a lot of interest in sort of re-wilding these wild areas."

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