In 2013, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) initiated a 5-year moose research project to determine the factors affecting moose population change in central British Columbia and to evaluate a landscape change hypothesis proposed by Kuzyk and Heard (2014). This report provides preliminary results and interpretation of data collected from February 2012 to May 2020 from five study areas in central British Columbia: Bonaparte, Big Creek, Entiako, PG South, and the John Prince Research Forest (JPRF). It is preceded by five annual reports (Kuzyk et al. 2015; Kuzyk et al. 2016; Kuzyk et al. 2017; Kuzyk et al. 2018b; Kuzyk et al. 2019b) and follows the recently revised research design for this project (Kuzyk et al. 2019a). This research was initiated because moose abundance in some areas of central British Columbia had declined since the early 2000s, causing concern with wildlife managers, First Nations, and stakeholders. Much of the decline happened concurrently with a Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) outbreak that caused widespread mortality of mature pine trees and resulted in extensive logging and road building to harvest beetle-killed timber. In February 2012, a moose study with similar objectives began on the Bonaparte Plateau in the Thompson region and was integrated with this project upon its initiation. The primary research objective of this project is to evaluate a landscape change hypothesis, which states that moose declines coincided with a Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak where habitat changes and increased salvage logging and road building resulted in greater vulnerability to moose, primarily from hunters and predators. We predict that moose survival will increase when: a) forest cutblocks regenerate to the point where vegetation obstructs the view of predators and hunters; b) resource roads created for logging are rendered impassable; and c) moose become more uniformly dispersed on the landscape. We evaluated that hypothesis by identifying rates and causes of cow moose mortality and examining factors that contributed to their vulnerability and mortality. To assess the causes and rates of calf mortality (an important research gap identified at the outset of this project), 8-month-old moose calves were collared and monitored annually in the Bonaparte and Prince George South (PG South) study areas since winter 2016/17.
Since this project was initiated in 2012, we captured, sampled, and fitted GPS radio collars on a total of 650 individual moose: 510 cows and 140 8-month-old calves. We recaptured and sampled 31 cow moose to replace collars over time, deploying a total of 541 GPS radio collars on cow moose. Since 2016/17, we have captured, radio-collared, sampled and monitored 140 8-month old calf moose in the Bonaparte (n = 80) and Prince George South (n = 60) study areas. We collected a standardized set of biological samples and undertook biological and morphological assessments and measurements at the time of cow and calf moose captures to inform pregnancy and health status, winter tick burden, reproductive status, size, age, and body condition. Since 2018/19, we also measured rump fat by ultrasonography on a random sample of cow moose in the Bonaparte and PG South study areas to gain more precise data on the body condition of cow moose entering winter. We collected similar observations and samples on calf moose at the time of capture and included direct measurements of their weight and body morphometry. Pregnancy rates varied over time in some study areas, and average pregnancy rates were low in the Bonaparte and PG South study areas. Estimates of winter tick numbers varied across years and study areas. Serological screening and ancillary testing did not demonstrate significant exposure to pathogens associated with morbidity and mortality in any study area. Rump fat measurements indicate relatively low body fat levels (~8?10%) in both of the last 2 years...
C. Procter, M. Anderson, M. Scheideman, S. Marshall, H. Schindler, H. Schwantje, D. Hodder, E. Blythe. 2020. Factors Affecting Moose Population Declines in British Columbia: 2020 Progress Report: February 2012-May 2020. FLNRORD
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