Granite Staters split on costly study of moose population - 249 responses

Jul 27, 2013

The massive, gangly moose, which Henry David Thoreau described alternately as "God's own horses" and "singularly grotesque and awkward to look at," are among the creatures that give New Hampshire its wild, almost frontier-like character. So what would Granite Staters think about a nearly $700,000 study (much of it federally funded) aimed at determining the dwindling numbers of this enigmatic icon. The Live Free or Die Alliance (http://lfda.org) recently asked its nearly 15,000 Facebook followers about a proposed venture between the University of New Hampshire and the state Department of Fish & Game to study the rapid decline in the Granite State's population of moose (estimated at 4,500). The project involves using helicopters to spot cow and calf moose, firing a net out of a gun to capture them, and hanging a collar on them outfitted with a global positioning satellite transmitter to allow for tracking them.

The question elicited 249 responses, including 126 concurrences ("likes," in Facebook parlance).

To determine the LFDA's Facebook followers' views on the study, one might as well flip a coin. Of the individual respondents, 46 percent favored the study, 46 percent opposed it and 8 percent provided a comment that either didn't answer the question directly or was deemed too ambiguous to classify as either for or against.

Those who supported the study pointed to moose's importance to New Hampshire's pastoral character, and its benefits to the tourism and hunting economy. "Scientific study is an end in itself," said one respondent, "but this has the added benefit of protecting a natural resource, maintaining a source of state revenue from tourism and hunting, and the potential of identifying future concerns."

However, others worried that the study isn't worth the expense, pointing out that federal dollars are still taxpayer dollars. "Sounds like a waste of money to me," said another of the LFDA's Facebook fans. "Just end moose hunting for a few years. Use some of the money to hire more forest rangers to patrol for poachers and the population should come back. This will also add jobs.

Respondents on both sides also expressed a variety of common themes: They agreed moose are important denizens of the Granite State, believed volunteers should be brought into the mix either to mitigate or eliminate the cost of the study and theorized that ticks were the chief culprit in the declining moose population.

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