Status and Hunting in Washington
By Dana L. Base, Associate Wildlife Biologist
more visible with a snow background. Photo:
moose in Washington are Shiras moose, also known as the Yellowstone
or Wyoming moose (Alces alces shirasi), which is the
smallest of the four subspecies of moose in North America.
The North American range for Shiras moose today includes Colorado
(introduced), Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Washington, southwestern
Alberta, and southeastern British Columbia.
presence was first documented within the state in 1954 when
a shed antler was found at Sema Meadows and in 1955 a yearling
cow carcass was found on Kalispell Creek in Pend Oreille County.
Even as recently as 1965, Lloyd Ingles, a renowned mammalogist,
reported no known population in the Pacific States (WA, OR,
CA). Today, moose inhabit primarily northeast Washington including
Spokane, Pend Oreille, Stevens, and Ferry counties. Moose
have also been observed in Lincoln, northern Okanogan, Whatcom
counties and recently in the Blue Mountains of southeastern
due to widespread timber harvest and forest regeneration in
northeast Washington the moose population steadily increased
from the 1950s, through the 1970s. In 1972, Richard J. Poelker,
a Department Biologist estimated a resident population of
60 moose in the state. Moose dramatically increased in numbers
and distribution after 1972. By 1977 the Department opened
a limited permit-hunting season and awarded three tags.
The annual tag number remained at three from 1977 through
1984. As the moose population continued to grow, from 1985
through 2004 tag numbers gradually increased from 4 to 96
tags. The Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission approved
96 moose tags for 2004, which is the highest number ever allotted.
The drawing odds in 2003 were about 1 in 120 applicants.
moose harvest has lagged not far below the number of tags
allocated. Harvest success rate has ranged between 67% and
100% with the average success exceeding 90%. Last year (2003),
87 moose were legally harvested including 61 bulls and 26
the early 1970s the WDFW has monitored the state’s moose
population through ground-based counts, track and fecal pellet
surveys, and aerial censuses. The WDFW now surveys moose by
helicopter. Bull and calf ratios from early winter helicopter
surveys have ranged from 70 to 128 bulls and 26 to 74 calves
per 100 cows. Bull ratios have remained remarkably high through
age of bulls harvested has ranged from 3.9 to 6.9 years from
1992 through 2002. The mean age of all bulls harvested since
1992 is 5.3 years, an age considered being an adult bull.
The antler spread of 207 harvested bulls ranged between 35
and 41 inches from 1992 through 2002. The average antler spread
for these years is 37 inches with the widest spread reported
to be 58 inches.
should note that moose are fairly common in the mountains
of northeast Washington, but also tend to be solitary by nature.
They seek out the cooler, moister drainages and northerly
slopes. While they can be found at any elevation, they are
most likely found in the 3,000 to 5,000 foot elevation range.
In the fall they prefer browse, primarily willows that grow
in brushy forest plantations or in burns that are 15 years
old or older. In the fall and early winter moose seem to seek
out snow, rather than avoid it.
rut in October and some hunters have been effective with calls.
Early in the season moose are widespread and snow is usually
not available for tracking. Access is good and many hunters
take moose in October. By November the deciduous trees and
shrubs have lost their leaves, which improves visibility for
glassing. In addition, snow helps locating tracks as well
as seeing this dark animal against a white background. By
mid to late November there is usually enough snow to be concerned
about access. Hunters in Washington generally have to put
in 7 to 14 days of hard hunting to harvest a moose. Of course
the real work begins after a moose is down!
National Forest travel map is highly recommended and available
at Ranger Stations in Newport and Colville. Washington Department
of Natural Resources (DNR) maps are also recommended, especially
for Game Management Unit # 121. There is a DNR regional office
located in Colville.