MDIFW moose biologist honored with international award

Published: Jun. 18, 2019 at 11:38 AM EDT
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Lee Kantar, Maine’s moose biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was honored with the Distinguished Moose Biologist Award by his peers at the 53rd North American Moose Conference last week in Carrabassett Valley.

“Maine has the most progressive and scientific moose management program in the United States, and Lee is the engine that drives that - he is most deserving of the award,” says Peter Pekins, Professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of New Hampshire and past recipient of the award.

The award was established in 1981, to honor and publicize the outstanding contribution of an individual, individuals, and/or organizations to moose management. It is not given out every year, and since its inception, recipients include those from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

“Lee’s work and dedication to Maine’s moose is exceptional. Maine’s moose survival study is pioneering in both its scope and numbers and has been a model for other states and provinces,” says MDIFW Commissioner Judy Camuso.

Kantar was recognized for his field work which includes designing, conducting, and overseeing Maine’s moose survival study, moose aerial surveys, moose necropsies and moose captures; his research which includes nearly a dozen published manuscripts, multiple agency reports, and scores of public presentations; and his administrative work regarding Maine’s moose management program and moose hunt.

Kantar joined the department in 2005 as the MDIFW deer biologist, and in 2007, he volunteered to include moose management as part of his role with the department. Kantar oversaw the management of Maine’s most popular mammals, moose and deer, for five years before devoting all his focus on moose management in 2012.

Dr. Walter Jakubas, head of MDIFW’s mammal group, nominated Kantar for the award and states: “Since his hire, he has transformed and built a moose management program that is arguably one of the most modern and comprehensive programs in the States. He is conducting the largest research effort with radio-collared moose in the States (over 500 collared animals in five years) while working cooperatively with New Hampshire and Vermont as part of a larger regional effort. He has become a pillar of moose management in the northeastern U.S. and North America, and without question, is deserving of this honor and recognition.”

Maine has over 60,000 moose, the most in the lower 48 states. Moose were plentiful in Maine during the 1600s but by the early 1900s, moose populations in Maine had declined to an estimated 2,000 due to unregulated hunting, clearing forestland for farming and increased incidence of brainworm attributed to rising deer populations. Since that time, increased protections, management and improved habitat have allowed the moose population in Maine to thrive.