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Lucky lottery winners land Vt. moose hunting permits - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lucky lottery winners land Vt. moose hunting permits

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -
On Thursday, the annual moose lottery drawing in Vermont was held at the Statehouse. Gov. Peter Shumlin drew the first five permits in the lottery specially reserved for veterans. 

Fewer and fewer moose hunting permits are given out each year. Wildlife officials say the moose population is under control thanks to hunting.

The lottery is a tradition for many moose hunters in Vermont. 

"It's really a privilege, and the people of our state love the moose and it's nice to do the moose a favor too," said Rodney Elmer of Northfield.

The moose lottery started in the early 1990s when Vermont was overrun by moose. So state wildlife officials came up with the idea to have a moose hunting season in October and have a lucky few hunters selected to thin out moose numbers.

"I enter every year since the first lottery. I've always been in every year and I got one myself about 10 years ago," said Ronald Fortier of Barre.

Vermont's moose population peaked around 2005 at about 6,000. Today, the population is less than half that at 2,300. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says that decline is mainly due to hunting and disease spread by ticks.

Elmer is one of this year's lucky permit lottery winners. This year more than 11,000 hunters applied for a license, but only 335 permits were handed out.

"I've seen some really smart moose and they really know how to avoid you; they're good at surviving. And it's good that we hunt them some too so they're not tame. They're nice and wild like they should be," said Elmer.

Wildlife officials say moose hunting and this lottery are still very much needed, even with the declining moose population. Officials say hunting moose is more humane than letting them get hit by a car, or suffer from a tick-borne illness.

"Make sure there's not too many or else the tick problem could explode worse than it is. The tick needs the moose to survive on to get their blood and grow and things like that. So if we can keep the moose numbers in check... understand we're happy where they are right now," said Mark Scott of Vt. Fish and Wildlife.

Scott says nearly half the winners of moose hunting licenses will bag a moose during hunting season and says the moose lottery will happen again next year.

"I want to go out in the woods and feel like I belong there, and man's a product of nature and we belong out there too. I can't wait to get back to it," said Elmer.

Vermont's moose lottery drawing may be over, but New Hampshire's moose hunt auction is still to come. The deadline to bid for a permit is Aug. 8. It's currently against the law to hunt moose in New York.

Click here for the full list of winners on the Vt. Fish and Wildlife page.

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