Caribou, Maine to host 2017 Maine Moose Lottery

Every year, a curious, fevered competition takes place in Maine. The odds of winning are low, but for the hunters who participate, the stakes are high. For many, it’s an event that represents a high point in their chosen pastime.

It’s the Maine Moose Lottery, and this year’s iteration, to be held in conjunction with a festival in Caribou June 17, 2017, promises to be just as much a nail-biter as its predecessors.

Since 1980, Maine has held an annual lottery to determine which lucky hunters get to pursue Maine’s version of big game—the venerable moose. According to Commissioner Chandler Woodcock of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, about 55,000 people, residents and non-residents alike, apply for a moose permit each year. Of those, only about 2,100 receive one. The number of permits available is set based on factors like moose population and is managed carefully.

“I think when it became apparent to everyone…that the moose is such an important animal in the management of species in Maine and across North America—we’re very unusual in the population that we have, we’re fortunate to have that—[it became apparent] that you needed to have a fair and equitable way of distributing the limited moose permits that we have,” said Woodcock.

It’s an opportunity many wait a lifetime for. In days of old, said Woodcock, winners were drawn from a drum with paper cards with names on them. It’s since evolved to a computer-based system that’s just as random and equitable, but takes only seconds to complete. The lottery system assigns weights, or “points,” based on the number of years an applicant has unsuccessfully applied, offers limited concessions based on age, and takes other factors into consideration. The full breadth of the lottery rules are provided on the Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s website.

For the past several years, the lottery has been hosted in various Maine cities and towns. While municipalities are encouraged to formally apply for the honor, the Commissioner is the final determining vote, said Woodcock. He makes the selection based on geographic distribution, and “I try to move it around the state as much as we possibly can,” he said.

According to Austin Bleess, Caribou’s city manager, they’re ready and waiting. As the lottery’s  host city this year, they’ve planned a slate of activities to embrace it. The weekend will begin on Thursday with “Thursdays on Sweden,” a regular public summer event in Caribou, he said. Friday night will feature more activities, and Saturday is planned to be a larger festival with various vendors, live music and food.

“We’re looking at having opportunities for people to come up, look at some moose, and travel around some of the moose ‘hot spots,’” he added. “It can be a great event for people that might not be hunters themselves. We’re going to have some fun. There’s something for everyone.”

Having the moose lottery travel around the state provides a great opportunity for cities and towns like Caribou to show off, according to Bleess.

“Lots of people know that Caribou’s a great place to live,” he said, “and there are a lot of job opportunities, and hopefully more coming. But giving people, giving residents something to do, giving people a reason to come up to Caribou… we’re really trying to be a place where people can get outside in all four seasons, enjoy all the great things which we can offer.”

According to Woodcock, winning a moose permit can be the stuff of dreams for many people.

“I would say other than having maybe Santa Claus come down the chimney with a new Corvette or something,” he said, “for most people it’s the thrill of a lifetime. It is amazing how important this is to generations of family members and generations of people.”


This article previously appeared in the Bangor Daily News special section “BDN Outdoors Spring/Summer 2017.”


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