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Determining Factors Affecting Moose Population Change in British Columbia: Testing the Landscape Change Hypothesis 2016 Progress Report: February 2012 - 30 April 2016 G. Kuzyk
2016
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Abstract: This technical report is preceded by Kuzyk and Heard (2014) and Kuzyk et al. (2015). In response to declining Moose numbers in central British Columbia (BC), the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) initiated a 5-year (December 2013?March 2018) provincially-coordinated Moose research project. A Moose study with similar objectives that began in February 2012 on the Bonaparte Plateau was integrated with this project. The primary research objective is to test the landscape change hypothesis that assumes Moose survival will increase when: a) forestry cutblocks regenerate to the point where vegetation obstructs the view of predators and hunters; b) resource roads created for logging are rendered impassable due to deactivation or forest ingrowth; and c) Moose become more uniformly dispersed on the landscape. We will address that hypothesis by identifying the causes and rates of cow Moose mortality and examining factors that contributed to their vulnerability. This progress report provides an update of field studies and preliminary interpretation of results from February 2012 to 30 April 2016 for Moose in five study areas in central BC: Bonaparte; Big Creek; Entiako; Prince George South; and the John Prince Research Forest. Within these five study areas, characterized by varied landscape features and conditions, cow Moose were fitted with GPS radio-collars and monitored for survival and habitat use and in some areas movement behaviour. To date, 336 cow Moose have been fitted with GPS radio-collars during annual December to March captures. There were 203 Moose captured by chemical immobilization using aerial darting and 133 by physical restraint using aerial net gunning. Three configurations of GPS radio-collars were used: those programmed for one fix/day (n = 147), 2 fixes/day (n = 90), and >2 fixes/day (n = 99). Collar performance of single fix collars for all study areas averaged 69% (range 32?96%), 2 fixes/day averaged 85% (range 45?98%), and >2 fixes/day averaged 96% (range 75?100%). As of April 30, 2016, of the 336 radio-collars deployed: 223 were active, 64 failed (i.e., stopped collecting data or slipped from Moose), and 49 were recovered from Moose that died. We identified the probable proximate cause of death for the 49 mortalities as: 21 predation (18 Grey Wolf, 2 Cougar, 1 Bear), 9 hunting (1 licensed, 8 unlicensed), 14 health-related (8 apparent starvation, 2 septicemia, 4 unknown health-related), 1 natural accident, and 4 unknown. The majority of cow Moose were assessed as being in good body condition at the time of capture. Biological samples were collected at capture and during mortality-site investigations as available. Serological screening and ancillary testing did not demonstrate significant exposure to pathogens; however some cows were emaciated at death with no apparent additional cause(s) of death. Future testing of biological samples may provide insight on pre-existing health conditions or other health-related factors that could have contributed to poor body condition and their death. The annual survival rate of cow Moose for all study areas was 92 ? 8% in 2013/14, 92 ? 5% in 2014/15 and 86 ? 5% in 2015/16. Analyses on habitat selection patterns of radio-collared Moose are currently underway at the University of Northern British Columbia and University of Victoria. A comprehensive survival analysis to provide inferences on factors contributing to increased risk of mortality in cow Moose across study areas is planned to begin in summer of 2017 in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). We recommend monitoring survival of cow and calf Moose for at least another five years (April 2018-2023) after completion of this project in March 2018 to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the factors affecting Moose population change in central BC and inform critical research gaps.
 
G. Kuzyk, S. Marshall, M. Klaczek, C. Procter, B. Cadsand, H. Schindler and M. Gillingham. 2016. Determining Factors Affecting Moose Population Change in British Columbia: Testing the Landscape Change Hypothesis 2016 Progress Report: February 2012 - 30 April 2016. Province of B.C.. Wildlife Working Report. WR-123
 
Topic: Species status
Keywords: Moose, Population, BC, British Columbia, Wildlife Working Report, Technical Report, Progress Report
ISSN:  Scientific Name: Alces alces
ISBN: 978-0-7726-6988-9 English Name: Moose
Other Identifier: 
 
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