Moose (Alces alces) have declined in recent decades across much of their range, and those at the southern periphery may be subject to additional stressors because of climatic pressure and marginal habitat. A further conservation challenge for moose may be the widespread disturbance to western conifer forests from the irruption of bark beetles (Dendroctonus spp.). We collected demographic and nutritional information from moose in the Medicine Bow Mountains of southeast WY, USA, by recapturing the same individuals repeatedly over two years. We tracked their movements by fitting them with GPS collars. We then created a landcover classification at 0.5 m resolution to delineate small habitat features and individual beetle-killed trees to compare the resource selection of moose in this study with an existing dataset collected before beetle-kill occurred. Moose did not alter their behavior in response to beetle kill; as they did before bark beetles, they avoided conifer forest and selected for willows (Salix spp.) and aspen (Populus tremuloides). We demonstrate that the nutritional condition of moose shows predictive power in describing several key population parameters, including an increased probability of pregnancy and adult survival. The nutritional condition of moose was not, however, related to the probability of recruitment, which contrasts with existing paradigms of how ungulate demography changes as when populations approach carrying capacity. Our work shows clear evidence that the Snowy Range moose herd is experiencing nutritional limitation and that bark beetles have not yet appreciably benefited moose habitat.
|Advisor:||Monteith, Kevin L., Kauffman, Matthew J.|
|Commitee:||Tinker, Daniel B., Driese, Kenneth L.|
|School:||University of Wyoming|
|Department:||Zoology & Physiology|
|School Location:||United States -- Wyoming|
|Source:||MAI 82/3(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Wildlife Management, Wildlife Conservation, Ecology|
|Keywords:||Demography, Habitat, Machine learning, Nutritional condition, Resource selection, Ungulate|
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