By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
HOOKSETT – A Brake for Moose sign might be needed near the Hooksett toll plaza on I-93 after two recent incidents involving two different behemoths in heavy traffic.
Or at least that’s how it felt during an adrenalin rush when a moose trotted toward my car after I pulled over in the breakdown lane to avoid hitting it on Friday.
The bull was completely wet. He did not appear injured although he had a dropped tine on one side of his antler rack. I could not tell if that was due to injury, but his gait seemed healthy and he was not limping. He had chocolate brown fur, darker nose and eyes looking a bit bewildered, almost angry as he headed straight at my car.
It tracked a bit to the side and instead of going up over the hood and roof, it ran alongside, inches from the side of my car on the gravel of the break-down side and headed toward Concord before heading into the forest, but only after coming after my car one more time.
Whew. But it got me thinking. What’s a driver to do when a 6-foot tall moose weighing about 700 pounds is suddenly trotting toward your car? So, I asked an expert.
Fish and Game Conservation Officer Levi Frye said it was good that I was able to stop out of the way of traffic, stay in place so the moose did not have to contend with more motion.
Frye cautioned against getting out of the car or trying to coral the animal into the woods, adding to the animal’s fear with a new element could add to the chaos.
Frye suggested warning the public that this time of year rut-crazed bull moose are looking for love in all the wrong places.
These encounters can be dangerous.
One person was hurt and a bull moose died in a collision Sept. 22 just south of the Hooksett tolls while neither moose nor human was injured in the incident Friday.
Frye, whose district runs through the Chichester and the Manchester area, said he responded to the first incident and found a young bull moose dead along the edge of the Jersey barriers just south of the Hooksett tolls.
It weighed about 500 pounds and was likely a year-old and turned out by his mother this summer, Frye said, adding the bull was likely looking to cross the road to pursue female moose.
State Police were on the scene to deal with the accident and by the time Frye arrived, one person was transported by ambulance with unknown injuries. It occurred on a busy Sunday afternoon between noon and 1 p.m. in the south lanes, Frye said. The moose died from the impact so he didn’t have to euthanize it.
New Hampshire used to have a lot of moose, but they were almost extinct at one time.
In the mid-1800s there were only 15 moose in the state. Because of the small number and loss of habitat, it was a slow rebound, according to Fish and Game.
“The moose herd didn’t begin to rebound noticeably until the early 1970s. By this time, abandoned farmlands and changes in forest practices created a mosaic of mature and young re-growing forests providing excellent moose habitat,” according to Fish and Game’s website.
By 1988, the first year of the modern-day hunt, 75 permits were issued mostly for the northern half of the state, according to the website.
Much of the census data on moose is developed by the observations of deer hunters in the woods. The firearms season for deer is in November, though archery hunting season began Sept. 15 and continues into December.
Officer Frye said this is the season of the rut where male moose are following the scents of females to breed.
“The moose in southern New Hampshire right now are very healthy,” Frye said noting he has had quite a few sightings and seen plenty of signs in the nearby 10,000-acre Bear Brook State Park.
In the summer, Frye said young males are weaned by their mothers, some of whom may again be pregnant, and like other wildlife abandoned, are in a confused and wandering state. In the fall, the confusion is more due to erratic mating behavior as these males “follow the scent of (moose) cows.”
New Hampshire currently has about 3,800 to 4,000 moose in residence, according to Fish and Game estimates.
In the 2015 NH Wildlife Action Plan, moose are listed as a “species of greatest concern,” because of their loss of habitat – essentially fewer clear cuts from a lack of logging – and impacts due to climate change, which allows parasites to flourish with shorter winters.
In areas where there are higher densities of deer, the moose are also being impacted by a brainworm that is transmitted to them but does not affect deer.
Other impacts to the species listed in the plan are increased heat stress impacting reproductivity, the limited moose hunt, and motor vehicle fatalities.
While they are listed as a species of greatest concern and are hunted, the report says the hunt is not impacting their numbers as much as a loss of habitat and climate change.
Other species of “greatest concern” in the state which are also hunted in New Hampshire are grouse, woodcock and black duck, the report states.
They, too, are facing impacts of habitat loss and climate change.
None of those species are considered on the state’s endangered species list.
At the end of the rut season, a limited moose hunt by lottery is held in New Hampshire. This year it will be from Oct. 19-27, with about 50 permits issued.