Moose abundance, distribution, and demographic characteristics in eastern Washington: Progress report: Year 1

Category: Wildlife Research

Published: February 5, 2015

Pages: 24

Author(s): Rich Harris, Sara Hansen, Jared Oyster, Dr. Kristin Mansfield, Ella Rowan, James Goerz, and Mike Mitchell

Executive Summary

Moose (Alces alces) populations have been increasing in Washington State since the 1920’s. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began offering opportunities to hunt moose in 1977 and populations have continued to increase along with public interest in wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities. The WDFW implemented aerial counts in 2002 to better monitor population trends and establish minimum population levels in districts 1 and 2. Though such surveys provided rough estimates of abundance, they were insufficient to meet population monitoring objectives established by WDFW in the 2009-2015 Game Management Plan. The Wildlife Program WDFW identified obtaining better estimates of moose abundance and more precise estimate of population trend as Initiative #14 for the 2013-15 Wildlife Program Plan Charter. During winter 2013-2014, we began testing the efficacy of an aerial mark-recapture distance sampling approach (MRDS) to provide a standardized and repeatable survey protocol appropriate for a large-scale estimate of moose populations in northeast Washington. This document overviews preliminary results obtained during sampling in winter 2013-14.

In autumn 2012, WDFW began working with the University of Montana on a 3-plus-year study of moose demography in study areas north of Spokane. The objectives of this study are to understand the factors controlling adult female survival and calf recruitment as this increasing population approaches carrying capacity and deals with a new predator to the area: the wolf. We provide a brief overview of progress to date on the study. We also provide brief updates of what we’ve learned regarding internal parasites that may affect moose in Washington, recent range expansion statewide, and characteristics of moose captured in conflict situations in the greater Spokane area.

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