AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine biologists say there are signs that the number of winter ticks on moose is declining.

The Portland Press Herald reports that biologists are optimistic that the state will issue a similar number of hunting permits in 2018 as in 2017.

State Wildlife Division Director Judy Camuso said Friday that recent checks of moose showed the fewest number of winter-ticks in the last four years.

The parasite has helped decimate moose numbers in the Northeast in recent years. Biologists have been studying what causes collared moose to die.

Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists will recommend the total number of moose hunting permits in March.

Camuso told the department’s advisory council that Maine’s biologists won’t know the full extent of moose mortality caused by winter ticks until May.