DEEP: Moose Are Here to Stay in Connecticut

Moose Are Here to Stay in Connecticut
Adapted from an article that appeared in the July/August 2002 issue of  Connecticut Wildlife.

Moose Sightings in Connecticut

{Map showing the distribution of moose sigtings in Connecticut}

There’s no question about it. Moose are now living in Connecticut and are here to stay. However, it is not clear whether moose were ever native to the state. If moose did exist here during early colonial times, they occurred in small numbers and at the southerly fringe of their range. In 1935, George Gilbert Goodwin wrote in The Mammals of Connecticut: “The moose, if ever a native to Connecticut, has long since disappeared from within the limits of this state.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, moose populations in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire increased dramatically because of favorable habitat conditions and limited hunting. This resulted in a southerly expansion of New England moose populations and an increased frequency of moose wandering into Connecticut.

Moose Arrive in CT

Starting in the 1970s and all the way through the early 1990s, moose occasionally were documented traveling through the state; however, no resident moose population existed. Since 1992, the Wildlife Division has been documenting credible moose sightings received from the public. From 1992 to May 2002, a total of 106 moose sightings were reported in 45 towns. Most sightings have been in the northwest region of the state, although moose have been seen as far south as Guilford, East Lyme and Essex.
To develop a population growth index, a question was added to the annual deer hunter survey card in 1996 regarding hunter observations of moose during the fall hunting season. Deer hunters reported 141 sightings of moose from 1996 to 2001. Since 1996, hunter sightings of moose have been reported from nine to 25 towns annually. During this six-year period, moose sightings have been reported in 44 different towns. Moose were reported in Hartland and Woodstock five of six years and in Union during all six years. Over 17 percent of all moose sightings were reported in Union from 1996 to 2001. In 2001, 25 sightings were reported from 17 towns and the number of sightings per 1,000 hunter-days almost doubled from 1999 (0.041) to 2000 (0.076) and decreased in 2001(0.058). In other words, for every 100,000 hunter-days in the field, 5.8 moose sightings were reported in 2001.

Moose Decide to Stay in CT

By 1998, there was evidence that a resident moose population was becoming established in Connecticut.

  • November 1998: Four-year-old female moose was found dead in Yale Forest. Nearby tracks indicated that a calf had been in the area.
  • July and September 2000: First actual sighting of a cow moose and calves in Hartland.
  • October 2001: Cow moose with calves was seen in Hartland.
  • January 2002: Cow moose and calves were reported in East Hartland and East Granby.
  • April 2002: Cow and calves were seen at the Barkhamsted Reservoir by a DEP conservation officer.
  • June 2002: Cow and calf observed by Wildlife Division staff at Goshen Wildlife Management Area.
  • Over the past four years, cow moose with calves have been observed annually in five different towns.

In the first six months of 2002 (January-June), the public reported 29 sightings in eight towns. Five were reported in January, three in February, two in March, eight in April, eight in May and three in June. Based on the frequency and distribution of these reports, the 29 sightings represent about nine different animals.

Moose on the Move

Moose sightings reported by the public provide the DEP with information on general movements of moose in Connecticut. For example, in May 1998, a young female moose was first observed in Eastford. In an eight-day period, the moose passed through Scotland, Lebanon, Franklin, Bozrah and Montville. After traveling at least 56 miles in 11 days, the moose was hit and killed by a car on Interstate 95 in Westbrook on June 5. The car was totalled and the passengers sustained non-life-threatening injuries. A physical examination of the moose indicated that she was two years old and had sustained internal injuries and three broken legs in the accident. A two-year old female that travels a long distance in spring is likely dispersing from her natal home range to establish a new home range.

Another moose on the move was observed in late September 2001. A yearling four-point bull moose was seen traveling from the Massachusetts/Connecticut border south to Willington, Tolland, Vernon and South Windsor over a two-week period. On October 7, 2001, the moose was observed in Riverside Park behind the Hartford Police Department, which is bordered by Jennings Road, Interstates 91 and 84 and the Connecticut River. Overall, the moose traveled about 36 miles in 14 days. A young bull moose traveling a long distance in fall is usually related to the breeding season. DEP staff successfully immobilized the moose, which was equipped with a radio-collar, packed with ice to prevent overheating, administered medication to reverse the effects of the immobilizing agent, and transported and released in upstate New York.

Moose-Vehicle Accidents

As a resident moose population becomes established in Connecticut, moose/vehicle accidents are expected to increase. The first report of a moose being hit by a motorist in Connecticut history occurred in June 1995. Between June 1995 and December 2001, six moose/vehicle accidents were reported in Connecticut, resulting in two dead moose and four severely damaged vehicles. Although six accidents may seem low, the few moose that do wander into or live in Connecticut have a relatively high likelihood of becoming involved in a motor-vehicle accident because of the numerous roads that transect the landscape. A moose-vehicle accident in Connecticut poses an increased potential of human fatalities compared to a deer-vehicle accident. Because of this increased risk, every moose sighting or encounter in Connecticut must be treated seriously with full awareness of expected outcomes.

Moose Fact Sheet