While moose hunting violations have been down in the first month of Maine’s moose hunting season, hunters and wildlife workers say they are shocked and disappointed at the illegal gunshot killing of a female moose found buried this week under tree boughs in northern Somerset County.

The state is on track to have fewer moose hunting violations this year than last. On Tuesday, however, a female moose was found dead from a gunshot wound and buried under tree branches in Rockwood Strip, a part of the state where cow hunting is not allowed. The discovery led to the posting of a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest or prosecution of the violator according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The moose apparently was killed during the one-week period in which moose hunting was permitted in northern Somerset County, from Oct. 13 through Oct. 18, according to a news release from the department.

“Each year we investigate things like this and it’s very unfortunate,” said Cpl. John MacDonald, of the Maine Warden Service, in a phone interview. “This moose was totally wasted; there was no meat taken from it at all, and it was clearly shot.”

There have been 47 complaints specific to moose hunting violations so far this year. The moose hunting season differs in different parts of the state, but the earliest the hunting season opens is Sept. 22 and the latest it runs is through Nov. 29.

Last year there were 74 violations reported, and in 2012 there were 63.

“As a trend last year, game wardens responded to a higher number of moose-related complaints than what would be typical in a year. This year seems to be more on track with what’s normal,” MacDonald said.

The Warden Service did not have information Tuesday about who killed the moose, and investigators are not sure whether it was a hunter, according to MacDonald. A $2,500 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest or prosecution of the killer by Operation Game Thief, a nonprofit organization that works with the department to offer rewards to citizens who turn in poachers.

Members of the hunting community in the area surrounding Rockwood Strip expressed disgust at the illegal killing of the animal.

“It’s devastating, especially considering it was a cow moose and she could have been pregnant,” said Amy Lane, who owns Gray Ghost Camps in Rockwood with her husband, Steven, a fishing guide. Lane said she heard on social media about the cow being killed. A Facebook post about the killing by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on Tuesday was shared 461 times and commented on 76 times within the first hour after it appeared online.

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a nonprofit group that promotes hunting and trapping as sport, declined to comment immediately on the illegal killing.

A limited number of moose hunting permits are distributed each year in Maine. The number is determined by state biologists in an effort to control and preserve the moose population, MacDonald said. This year 3,095 permits were issued through a lottery system.

The state is divided into 29 zones, called wildlife management districts, that each have their own regulations on hunting, including when hunting can take place and what kind of moose — male or female, antlerless — can be hunted. There is a statewide limit of one moose per permit, but many of the reported violations this year have been related to reports of hunters killing two moose with one permit, MacDonald said.

“We’re concerned about our moose herd, and we’re happy the state has cut back on the number of permits up here,” Lane said. “Last year there was a cow (hunting) season in November, and luckily they suspended that this year to give our moose a little bit of a break.”

At 15 Mile Stream Lodge & Outfitters in the West Forks, Shane Crommett, a Master Guide, said it is unusual for a hunter to try to hide a moose that was killed illegally.

“I know people that have made a mistake. When they make a mistake and the authorities are contacted, they’re going to be more lenient; but when you try and hide it, that’s when you’re making a big mistake,” Crommett said. “I would never let any of my clients try and hide something like that. For one, it’s illegal, but it’s also just unethical.”

The killing was reported during the hunting season in Wildlife Management District 8, which includes Rockwood Strip and stretches from the Maine-Quebec border south to the Bigelow Preserve and from the Western Maine Mountains to the western shores of Moosehead Lake. Hunting season in that zone was open from Oct. 13 through Oct. 18, and 175 bull-only permits were issued.

The report of the moose found shot and abandoned comes shortly before voters will decide in a ballot referendum whether to continue to allow the use of dogs, traps and bear baiting in bear hunting. Those opposed to bear baiting have argued that the practice is inhumane and should be banned.

People who make a living in northern Maine’s outdoors say they worry about the public’s perception of hunters when an illegal kill is publicized.

“Our guide license is very important to us. It’s how we make a living, and with this whole bear referendum thing going on, it doesn’t make us look very good, either,” said Cheree Conrad, a moose hunting guide who co-owns Sunrise Ridge Guide Service & Sporting Camps in Moscow. “We don’t need to lose our moose hunting licenses also.”

Anyone with information related to the case is asked to call either Maine OGT at 800-253-7887 or the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office at 564-3304.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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