Counting Moose

There's a scene in Bad Little Falls in which Mike tags along with Charley Stevens and his daughter Stacey as they conduct an aerial moose survey. When I wrote those chapters, I was being deliberately anachronistic. Moose and deer surveys are mostly done with helicopters these days. But I wanted to get my three characters in a small plane together.

That said, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has just announced the findings of "Stacey's" survey:

The Department currently estimates a population of 76,000 moose after using a double count technique the last two winters where two observers independently reported the number of moose observed while flying in a helicopter over northern and eastern Maine.

During the winter of 2010-2011, the Department used the technique, adapted from Quebec and New Brunswick where it was utilized to count deer, to survey Wild Management Districts (WMDs) 2, 3 and 6 with the help of the Maine Forest Service and funds from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.

It was then decided that the aerial survey was far more accurate and efficient than the previously used methods, including transect counts from fixed wing, line-track intercept techniques, a modified Gasaway survey and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR).

By their nature, these woodland aerial surveys are catch-as-catch-can. A moose can very easily hide in deep cover. But biologists do what they can to be methodical, as you can see from this video: