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Lake Placid native has moose encounter near Dix

August 28, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer (jlevine@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

A Lake Placid native had a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a moose in the Adirondacks two weeks ago, but research suggests the moose population may be on the decline.

Sam Perkins was bushwhacking in the Dix Mountain area, walking up a semi-dry streambed when he looked up to the surprise of a lifetime.

"I was in a drainage and the woods were really thick and scratchy," Perkins said. "I came upon some moose scat and it still had a shine to it.

Article Photos

A young male moose munches on some leaves in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area a couple weeks ago.
(Photo provided — Sam Perkins)

"I came upon some more tracks, some more scat. It was getting pretty steep, I definitely had to watch my footing. I hadn't seen tracks in quite some time and figured he probably got out, climbed up one of the banks.

"I wasn't looking for moose by any means, (but) there was this one kind of rock section and I started up the rock and I heard this nasally sound, and I looked up and there he was, like literally five feet in front of me."

Perkins, who grew up in Lake Placid and now lives in Plattsburgh, backed off from the moose and made sure to keep a tree or boulder in between him and the male moose as he pulled out his camera.

The video he posted of the moose has now garnered nearly 100,000 views on Facebook, and Perkins said the moose didn't seem bothered by his presence at all.

"He did not care at all that I was there," Perkins said. "I watched him for about 10 minutes eating, which was just amazing. And then after that 10 minutes he turned around and started walking up the drainage.

"And he stopped and he laid down. And he stayed there for about five minutes and slowly walked away. It's unbelievable how effortlessly he walked up that drainage and he went up the bank to the right and he was gone."

Perkins said he was stunned by the encounter and had to sit down to process what had happened.

"It didn't seem real. Like, 'Did that just happen?'" he said. "It was amazing. Luckily, he was completely okay with me there. The plan was never to be that close to a moose."

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Research

While Perkins' photo and videos provided plenty of wonder, recent research suggests that moose populations in the Adirondacks may be on the decline.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation currently estimates the moose population at between 500 and 800 across the state. The DEC is currently partnering with several other agencies and non-governmental organizations to study the moose population using aerial surveys, remote tracking and hunter questionnaires.

A recent study conducted by Cornell University researchers and published in the Journal of Wildlife Medicine, which looked at several years of the hunter surveys, found the moose population may be declining. This is not definitive as the surveys - provided by citizen scientists - may provide inaccurate information, but it would fit in with a growing trend of declining moose populations. In fact, the estimate provided by the DEC for this article was lower than previous estimates the agency has provided.

New Hampshire's moose population has dropped nearly 50 percent in the last 15 years, from about 7,000 to only 4,000. In 2015, New Hampshire's moose hunting lottery only had 71 permits awarded as opposed to 675 in 2007. Minnesota ended its moose hunt entirely, and states like Vermont, Maine and Wisconsin have also cut back on moose tags.

The main factor in these other states is not hunting mortality, but rather deaths from diseases, infections and most significantly, ticks.

Winter ticks have wreaked havoc on moose populations, but don't seem to have hit New York moose as hard as other states. But that doesn't mean moose here are out of the woods.

Two graduate students at Cornell found that moose here may also be suffering the effects of a parasite that is spread by snails, slugs and other gastropods. The research was presented at the Ecological Society of America meeting in early August.

This research, conducted by Jailene Hidalgo and Carlos Fernandez, found that moose could get parasitic deer brain worm if they ingest slugs and snails that host the parasite. Deer also host the parasite, but are unaffected by it.

The students found that higher soil moisture led to higher densities of the gastropods, and pointed to the fact that moose often feed in wetter areas as one reason they could be suffering greater rates of infection.

The Wildlife Health Lab at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine conducted 22 necropsies on dead moose last year and found that parasites are a major threat to the New York moose population.

DEC spokesman David Winchell wrote in an email that the state is actively trying to garner an accurate count of the animals.

"The goal of the Adirondack moose study is to gather data that will be used to create a moose management plan for New York state," Winchell wrote. "As part of the study, 12 moose were captured in the Adirondacks in January 2015 and another nine moose were captured in January 2016, fitted with GPS radio collars, and released. The movement of the moose are being remotely tracked, and these animals will be monitored for calf production and survival. During the winter, researchers used helicopters to fly transects across the Adirondacks to survey for moose.

"Beginning in the summer of 2016, researchers will use trained detection dogs to locate and collect moose scat, which can be used to generate a population estimate as well as provide data about moose diet and health. Also beginning in 2016, researchers will start to explore how suitable the Adirondack habitat is for moose by looking at the quantity and quality of food sources."

Winchell added that due to the high cost of the aerial surveys and moose collaring that the study was unlikely to spread to areas outside of the northern Adirondacks, noting that DEC would be relying on other survey methods.

For more information on moose research, go to www.ny-moose.weebly.com or visit the DEC's moose page at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6964.html.

 
 

 

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