Maine’s state moose biologist was honored by his peers last week when he was given the Distinguished Moose Biologist award at the 53rd North American Moose Conference, which was held at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley.
Lee Kantar of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was recognized for his extensive field research, which includes designing, conducting and overseeing the state’s moose survival study, and his other roles as the point person in Maine’s moose management effort.
Peter Pekins, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of New Hampshire, has worked with Kantar and is a past recipient of the same award. He praised Kantar’s efforts at the conference in a DIF&W press release.
“Maine has the most progressive and scientific moose management program in the United States, and Lee is the engine that drives that. He is most deserving of the award,” Pekins said.
The award was established in 1981 to honor and publicize the outstanding contribution of individuals and/or organizations to moose management. It is not given out every year.
Since its inception, recipients include those from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Kantar was hired as the state’s deer biologist in 2005 and volunteered to add moose to his responsibilities two years later. He worked on both species for five years before focusing his attention solely on moose beginning in 2012.
Maine has the largest moose herd — more than 60,000 animals — in the lower 48 states. According to the release, unregulated hunting, the clearing of forest land for farming and an increase in brainworm associated with a growing deer population resulted in the herd shrinking to about 2,000 in the early 1900s.
Kantar was nominated for the award by Walter Jakubas, head of the DIF&W’s mammal group.
“Since his hire, he has transformed and built a moose management program that is arguably one of the most modern and comprehensive programs in the States,” Jakubas said.”He has become a pillar of moose management in the northeastern U.S. and North America, and without question, is deserving of this honor and recognition.”
Jakubas cited Kantar’s work in putting radio collars on more than 500 moose over a five-year span, and his cooperative efforts with biologists in New Hampshire and Vermont, which will help researchers better understand moose on a more regional level.
“Lee’s work and dedication to Maine’s moose is exceptional,” DIF&W commissioner Judy Camuso said. “Maine’s moose survival study is pioneering in both its scope and numbers and has been a model for other states and provinces.”