If you’re like me, you probably don’t spend much time wondering how many birthdays any given Maine moose has celebrated when you drive around a corner and wind up face to face with a heavy-antlered specimen.
But you might have wondered — as I have — how old a truly old Maine moose is.
Now, I’m not a wildlife biologist, and you’re welcome to debate my conclusions, but this morning I’ve got an answer for you that I think makes sense.
A truly old Maine moose is precisely 17½ years old.
At least, that’s what I’ve been able to glean from the data I recently received from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Not that my scientific method is taught in most textbooks, mind you.
As part of its management efforts, the department annually compiles data about the moose that are taken by hunters. One piece of data is established by pulling a tooth from each animal and having it analyzed to determine the moose’s age. That process, I’ve been told, is similar to aging a tree by counting rings.
And after looking at that table full of moose data, I can report a few interesting things. First, and most important (to nobody but me), the moose that I shot and tagged was a youngster, only 2½ years old. The monstrous “baster” that ended up in my freezer after a mix-up at the butcher shop was 5½ years old.
And of the 1,337 moose that gave a tooth to the cause, the oldest sampled was 17½ years old. Thus, my conclusion: 17½-year-old moose = Ancient.
Just one 17½-year-old senior citizen moose was harvested during the season; Other old moose included two that were 14½, one 15½-year-old and one 16½-year-old. On the other side of the ledger were plenty of young moose. In fact, 42 hunters took moose that hadn’t yet reached their first birthdays, and were just a half-year old. Another 88 were 1½ years old, while 232 were 2½ and 240 were 3½.
In all, fewer than 1 percent of the moose harvested (11 out of 1,337) had reached 13½ years old, while 71 percent of the moose taken were 5½ years old or younger.
In all, 2,080 permits were allotted in 2017.
If you’re interested in checking out the list and crunching your own moose-age data, you can do so here.
And if you’re a real numbers person and want to look at data from other seasons, you can find moose ages all the way back to 2006 here.
Got derby fever?
As winter stretches on, many civic organizations and clubs are staging popular ice fishing derbies around the state.
Earlier this week I heard from Frank Dunbar, who shared news about the Bucksmills Rod & Gun Club derby, which will be held on Bucksport’s Silver Lake on Sunday, Feb. 18.
Tickets for the derby are available for $5 (adults) or $2 (children) or $10 (family). Ask around, and you’re not likely to find a better derby bargain than that.
Cash prizes of $50 for first place and $25 for second will be paid for the largest bass, perch and pickerel.
One thing to be aware of: There is a two-trap limit per person.
Plenty of food will be available for purchase at the public landing, and 50/50 raffle tickets will be sold.
If you’re organizing a derby and you’d like to let folks know about it, please reach out to me at the email address below.
And if you’re out there ice fishing and end up with a fish tale worth sharing, make sure to take plenty of good photos and send them along. Our readers are waiting!
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.
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