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A Wildlife Rodeo of Sorts in Northern Maine

Photo, Lisa Gilbert

Tired of your desk job?

Want to lead a life of adventure?

You should think about becoming a moose “mugger” like the guys currently flying in northern Maine, on the hunt for moose.

Lee Kantar, Moose Biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife explains these men from out west are rugged individuals, some of them with actual rodeo experience, and they’re ready to tackle a Maine moose, quite literally!

It’s all in the name of science, and the efforts underway in Northern Maine are the start of a five-year long research project tracking the health of Maine’s moose population.

The crew of men out of New Mexico, specifically trained in capturing and collaring large animals, are called “muggers” according to Kantar.

The IF&W biologists work with pilots from the Maine Forest Service to locate cow moose in Northern Maine and once spotted, the “muggers” come in on helicopters and use cartridge-launched nets to isolate the moose.

“They come out of the helicopter, get the moose, blindfold and hobble it, put the radio collars on it, ear tag, take some bio samples, get back in the ship and get out of Dodge,” explains Kantar enthusiastically.

Kantar says while the process sounds like it would be tough on the moose, he says it’s actually less stressful than than using a chemical immobilizer from a dart gun.

The tracking and study for the cow moose will provide biologist with a much greater understanding of the health of the Maine moose population including adult and calf survival and reproductive rates.

Kantar says the GPS-equipped collars cost about $700.00 each, and in the event of a collared moose dying, they can recover and reuse the collar.

The collar provides tracking information twice daily right to Kantar’s desk which he says is far more efficient and less costly in terms of staffing compared to the old tracking method using people on the ground following VHF signals.

The IF&W has agreed to share video of the “muggers'” in action as soon as they have a chance to process the video from the field.


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