This technical report is preceded by Kuzyk and Heard (2014), Kuzyk et al. (2015), and Kuzyk et al. (2016). In response to declining Moose numbers in central British Columbia (BC) since the early 2000s, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) (as of 2017, the Ministry name changed to Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) 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 of this project is to evaluate a landscape change hypothesis, that is, 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 are evaluating that hypothesis by identifying the causes and rates of cow Moose mortality, and examining factors that contributed to their vulnerability. In January 2017, Moose calves were collared to assess the causes and rates of calf mortality; an important research gap previously identified in this project. This progress report provides data and a preliminary interpretation of the results from 28 February 2012 to 30 April 2017 from five study areas in central BC: Bonaparte; Big Creek; Entiako; Prince George South; and the John Prince Research Forest.
Since this project was initiated in 2012, we fitted 388 cow Moose with GPS-radio-collars across five study areas during annual December to March captures. Twenty calf Moose (12 female, 8 male) were fitted with GPS-radio-collars in the Bonaparte study area during January/February 2017. There were 255 cow 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 = 107), and >2 fixes/day (n = 134). As of 30 April 2017, of the 388 radio-collars deployed on cow Moose, 215 were active, 101 censored (i.e., dropped at end of battery life, stopped collecting data or slipped from Moose), and 72 were associated with Moose that died. We identified the probable proximate cause of death for the 72 cow mortalities as 36 predation (31 Wolf, 3 Cougar, 2 bear), 12 hunting (1 licensed, 11 unlicensed), 16 health-related (8 apparent starvation, 3 septicemia, 1 peritonitis, 4 unknown health-related - two of which have health tests pending), 3 natural accidents, and 5 unknown. Of the 20 calf Moose radio-collared in 2017, there were 11 mortalities with the proximate cause of mortality being 5 due to predation (4 Wolf, 1 bear), 5 health-related (4 apparent starvation, 1 unknown health-related with health tests pending) and 1 vehicle collision.
The majority of cow and calf Moose were in good body condition at the time of capture; however, some cows captured in 2017 were assessed as in very poor or emaciated body condition. A standard set of biological samples that included age estimates and body condition estimation by live animal assessment or through marrow fat was collected at capture and during mortality site investigations, as available. Bone-marrow-fat analysis conducted on cow Moose mortalities (n = 43) found that 21% had acute malnutrition (<20% marrow fat) and 19% were in poor body condition (20?70% marrow fat). Serological screening and ancillary testing did not demonstrate substantial exposure to pathogens (i.e., pathogens that would likely have increased a Moose?s likelihood of death); however, some cows were emaciated at death with no apparent additional cause(s) of death determined to date. .....
Gerald Kuzyk, S. Marshall, C. Procter, B. Cadsand, H. Schindler, M. Klaczek, H. Schwantje, and M. Gillingham. 2017. Determining Factors Affecting Moose Population Change in British Columbia: Testing the Landscape Change Hypothesis 2017 Progress Report:February 2012-April 2017. Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Wildlife Working Report. WR-125