Provincial Moose Research Project

Since 2013, the Provincial Moose Research Project has been investigating the influence of landscape change on cow moose survival. More recently, monitoring calf moose survival has become a key component of the project. Individual moose have been captured to deploy a GPS radio-collar and collect health samples. Each animal is then monitored for survival and how they are using the land.  

  • Predation has accounted for 58% of the cow moose that died while health issues accounted for 19% of deaths. Combined adult cow survival was above 85% in all years, but below 85% in a couple of study areas (i.e., Entiako and Prince George South) in some years. Survival at or above 85% normally indicates a stable population. Cow survival rates in some study areas (i.e., Bonaparte and John Prince Research Forest) are high enough to support increasing populations, although populations continue to decline.  
  • Early findings from monitoring survival of calves from 8 months of age to 1 year of age suggest that calf mortality occurs during their first summer and in the transition from winter and spring.  This late season calf mortality was not expected and appears to be the main contributing factor to the population declines. The ministry, in partnership with the University of Victoria, is investigating factors influencing the calf mortality and will use the results to better inform management decisions and project investments. Annual survival of 8-month old calves to age 1 (May 22) varied annually from 45% to 76%. Causes of mortality were 69% predation, 28% health-related and <1% vehicle-collision. 
  • Body fat measurements using a portable ultra-sound during capture in winter of 2018/19 suggested that moose were in poor to fair condition.  Body condition is a key factor in the ability of cow moose to breed, maintain pregnancies, produce healthy calves (moose can produce twins) and provide adequate milk for calves to thrive.  Calves born to unhealthy moms are more likely to be in poor body condition making them far more susceptible to predation, accidents and health-related deaths

Additional projects are being conducted by the Province to assess nutrition and assist in interpreting the causes of poor body condition of cows on moose populations. Current research projects include:

  • Assessment of moose forage quality: effects of harvesting, season and exposure on nitrogen, digestible protein and tannin levels in preferred moose browse
  • Habitat supply and ungulate winter range: identifying and protecting critical winter habitat
  • Herbicide and moose forage analysis: investigating the effects of forest herbicide applications on quality of browse
  • Fertilizer and moose forage analysis: investigating the quality of winter forage in fertilized and unfertilized stands
  • Heat stress: investigating the intensity and timing of heat stress under various forest stand types
  • Pellet analysis: investigating the constituents of moose pellets to infer forage and habitat quality

 

 

Moose in BC: What's driving the declines?