Moose have been present in the northern tier of New York since the Pleistocene. However, by as early as the 1860s over-exploitation and habitat degradation had extirpated moose from all of New York State.
In response, a handful of small-scale moose restoration efforts were undertaken between 1870 and 1902, but none proved successful. Over the next eighty years there were periodic moose sightings, but none seemed to suggest an established population.
It wasn’t until 1986 that New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff documented a small population of resident moose in the Adirondacks that may have immigrated from Vermont, Massachusetts, or Quebec. By the turn of the 2010s, it was thought that the population that started with only 6-11 individuals had grown to many as 400, but a thorough population census had yet to be undertaken.
Over the past eight years, DEC has partnered with Cornell University and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to monitor New York’s moose population. A series of research projects have been conducted to assess several factors that contribute to the overall health and stability of the population. Some of the findings from these projects determined that there were approximately 700 moose (as of 2019) located within the Adirondack Park, with many of these individuals located on private industrial forest lands in the northern and western portions of the Park.
An evaluation of forage availability suggested that there was enough food on the landscape to support a larger population. An associated study of GPS-collared adult cows (females) found that there was limited dispersal of these individuals to other areas, suggesting that these cows had enough local resources to establish home ranges, breed, and produce calves. Collectively, these findings suggest that New York’s moose population is stable or potentially growing.
The first two years of a moose’s life can be the hardest due to winter energetic demands and an increased susceptibility to pathogens and parasites. Because of this, over the past two winters DEC partnered with Cornell University and Native Range Capture Services to catch 30 calf and yearling moose. All captured individuals were outfitted with GPS-tracking collars, which will self-release after two years of data collection. This study will help assess how many calves and yearlings are surviving to breeding age.
Overall, there’s reason to be optimistic that New York’s moose population is back for good. But moose aren’t out of the proverbial woods yet. There are still questions regarding the long-term survival of calves and the impacts of climate change, parasites, and pathogens on New York’s moose population.
You can read more about moose in New York State here.
Photo of Moose courtesy DEC.
GARY SCHOEN says
A good news story… “Nature will find a way” (jurassic park)