CARIBOU, Maine — More than 2,000 hunters, the vast majority from Maine, got lucky, winning one of the moose permits that were up for grabs this year in the state’s annual lottery.
Despite the event’s remote location in Maine’s northernmost county, the venue was packed with hopeful hunters.
The annual lottery is a way for Maine to limit the number of moose taken each year, while giving hunters a fair chance to participate in the popular hunting season.
The number of permits varies each year, depending on moose population estimates by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The department does this through a number of management practices, including aerial surveys and tracking radio-collared moose.
“As an agency it’s our job to maintain the moose herd, a healthy moose population,” Judy Camuso, director of the department’s wildlife division, said during a live feed of the event posted on the department’s Facebook page.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokesman Mark Latti said Saturday evening that wildlife experts are monitoring the state’s 150 moose collars “so we have a good [handle] on the population. Things are stable in their core range. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about moose ticks but in their core range, north of Moosehead Lake, the moose are doing very well.”
Lottery day in Caribou began with children’s activities at nearby Teague Park, plus an outdoor expo featuring 40 mostly sportsman-oriented vendors and food trucks, a live animal show on the outside stage and a moose calling contest on the inside stage.
The much-anticipated drawing for moose hunt permits began at 2 p.m. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said that 47,448 people applied this year.
Maine’s first moose hunting permit lottery was held on an experimental basis in 1980, when 700 Mainers were awarded permits. That season, 636 hunters — or 91 percent of those with permits — got a moose.
For moose hunters, success is the norm. For the 2016 season, the success rate for all moose seasons was 75 percent. Last year 2,140 permits were issued. And 1,609 moose were taken.
This year, 2,080 hunters were each assigned to hunt in a particular district, for a specific gender of moose, during a predetermined time. Moose season will be split into three six-day sessions and one month-long season.
The breakdown of seasons:
— Sept. 26-Oct. 1, with 720 winners hunting in eight of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts.
— Oct. 9-14, with 1,095 hunters spreading out across 19 WMDs.
— Oct. 23-28, with 220 hunters in five WMDs.
— Oct. 30-Nov. 25, with 45 hunters participating in the two southernmost WMDs.
Maine’s popular moose lottery has all sorts of rules to make it as fair as possible for prospective hunters. For example, anyone winning a permit must wait three years before being eligible to win again. And losers receive bonus points that increase their chances of winning the next year.
Technically, the hunters whose names were drawn won the right to purchase a moose hunting license, which is $52 for Maine residents, and $585 for people from away.
As has become tradition on moose lottery day, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock announced where the festivities will take place next year: Skowhegan.