Despite several high-profile collisions between moose and automobiles over the past week — three on Tuesday alone — the number of such accidents has dropped significantly in Maine over the past several years, state officials say.

The state averaged about 674 collisions annually from 1995 through 2007, with a high during that period of 858 in 1998, according to figures from the Maine Dept. of Transportation. But from 2008 through last year, the yearly average was about 443.

Last year, there were 385 moose-vehicle collisions and no fatalities, and there have been only 113 collisions through July 9 this year, with one fatality that occurred this week.

Sidney Oakes, 60, of Brewer, was killed early Tuesday morning when his Dodge Grand Caravan struck a moose on Interstate 95 near Howland. That night, state police Trooper Dennis Quint was injured when his cruiser struck a moose along U.S. Route 1 in Cyr Plantation while he was responding to another moose-vehicle collision in that town, also on U.S. 1. In the earlier accident, driver Melissa Martin and passenger Darlene Dias, both of Van Buren, were hospitalized after the accident.

Last week, witnesses to another moose-vehicle collision in Monson say the driver, David Richards, of Skowhegan, was lucky to survive.

Tow truck owner Fred Annance and his wife, Janet, responded on July 3 to tow Richards’ vehicle after it had struck a moose in Monson along Route 15 in an area where many such collisions have occurred.

Annance, who has run Moosehead Towing in Greenville Junction for 35 years, said he is called to more than a dozen moose-vehicle collisions each year. He said he was dumbfounded that Richards walked away from last Thursday’s accident, given the amount of damage to his vehicle. Typically, Annance said, when a moose lands on a vehicle, the driver doesn’t survive.

“There were 4-foot-long skid marks, and the moose was on its back. The lady who made the call to police said it was still thrashing around. That poor man was just sitting there under it,” Annance said.

Normally, more moose-vehicle collisions occur in May and June than in other months as the animals roam for food after winter ends. “Juvenile moose are moving and dispersing from moms’ home range in the spring. They’re dazed and confused, looking for food. That could be delayed this year because it’s greening up later,” after an unusually long winter, said state moose biologist Lee Kantar.

Up to 80 percent of moose-vehicle accidents in Maine occur between dusk and dawn, according to the Maine DOT. However, much has been done in the past several years to improve safety, said Duane Brunell, the department’s safety officer.

Public outreach and “moose crossing” signs placed in areas where a lot of collisions have occurred have helped, Brunell said. Last summer, the department also installed reflectors that help reveal a moose’s profile along a stretch of road between Caribou and Fort Kent where a number of moose have been struck by vehicles.

“I think it’s a combination of things that has helped. There is more public awareness and some engineering methods, as well as state biologists’ efforts to manage the moose population,” Brunell said.

Kantar said there has been an aggressive effort to reduce the number of moose in areas in Aroostook County where there have high numbers of moose struck by vehicles. In the past 10 years, the state has issued more hunting permits for antlerless — female — moose to drive down birth rates and reduce moose densities. There has also been a controlled moose hunt in broccoli fields in Aroostook County over the past several years.

As a result, the population density of moose in the northeast corner of the state has decreased from five moose per square mile five years ago to two to three moose per square mile today, Kantar said.

“We’ve worked over the years at reducing the number of moose to a lower level more in line with what the public wants (in that region). We’ve largely succeeded with that,” Kantar said.


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