BOSTON--There's a growing menace on the roads and in the neighborhoods and dairy farms of New England:
Too many moose.
An unprecedented population rise has swelled the ranks of moose to the point where their number in some states now could double every four years, experts and officials say.
Five New Englanders have died this year in accidents caused by moose that wandered onto roads and highways, often in the dark of night. Dozens of moose also have been killed this way.
Vermont is considering allowing moose hunting for the first time this century. New Hampshire has extended its hunting season. And Massachusetts has put game officials on alert to respond to the increasing number of sightings in residential suburbs and even cities as young moose are pushed south by their territorial elders.
"What we come down to here is sort of a local example of what ecologists are worried about worldwide," said Mark Pokras, a professor of wildlife medicine at the Tufts University Veterinary School: "When you have big animals, they inherently need a tremendous amount of land to move around in."
Moose were plentiful in New England until white settlers replaced their thick forest habitats with farms. But laws protecting the animals, and the gradual reforestation of the area, have spawned the comeback.
"Moose were plentiful here during the French and Indian wars [between 1689 and 1763]--more plentiful than deer," said Cedric Alexander, chair of the moose management team at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commission. "Here in 1990, we've had conditions favorable to moose again for quite a while, and they're reproducing well."
Well enough for their ranks to double every four years, he said.
There are believed to be 1,000 moose in Vermont--an estimate based partly on the number of moose-related road and highway accidents, which have risen about 15 percent a year.
In 1981, the first accidental moose killing on a Vermont road was recorded. Last year, 41 moose were fatally struck; so far this year, 67.
Dairy farmers have complained that moose push down their fences. There also are reports of damage to expensive maple sugar tubing.
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