Wednesday 18 May 2016

Forest-loving moose learning to thrive on farmland

Date: May 17, 2016
Source: University of Saskatchewan

While populations of moose have been declining in much of their North American range, research from the University of Saskatchewan shows how these icons of the northern boreal forest are finding success by moving south into farmers' fields.

"Thirty years ago, seeing moose in the farmland of Saskatchewan would have been very rare but over time they have expanded to these new areas," said Ryan Brook, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the U of S. "It's unique to see populations well-established in areas with less than one percent forest cover that are dominated by crop production."

Brook, who leads the Saskatchewan Farmland Moose Project, has been working with his colleagues to discover how the moose are succeeding in what used to be considered highly unsuitable habitat. The research team used a net gun fired from a helicopter to capture 40 adult cow moose and fit them with GPS satellite collars in 2013 and 2014 to track the animals' movements for four years.

The team found that the animals are taking advantage of the area's "knob and kettle" land forms, that is, rolling hills with plentiful tree-ringed sloughs and wetlands. During the heat of the summer days -- "hot" for a moose being above 14 C -- the animals retreat to shade and water, coming out to feed once it cools off.

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