POTENTIAL USE OF TRACK-PELLET GROUP COUNTS FOR MOOSE CENSUSING
Here we suggest the potential of a within-winter track-pellet group sampling technique for moose censusing. It will not replace aerial censuses in “core” North American moose range, where large, remote areas must be surveyed, but based on previous tests with deer, may be useful in areas that have relatively good winter access. To use this technique one gathers data several days after the end of a snowfall that covers all previous moose tracks and pellets. At that time an observer follows almost tracks within relatively large (> 5 ha) plots (or within strips of a predetermined width) and counts all pellet groups that are visible on the snow surface, found in association with those tracks. where appropriate the track-pellet group technique offers the following advantages over spring pellet group counts: 1) few if any pellet groups are missed; 2) pellet group age (deposition period) is certain), and groups are discrete; 3) additional biological information can be collected simultaneously; 4) mid-winter defecation rates are expected to be more than uniform than those throughout the entire fall-spring period; and 5) sites that could not be examined during normal pellet group counting times, and areas that cannot be easily sampled from the air can be sampled. Disadvantages include: 1) winter access constraints; 2) the need for quite precise on-site monitoring of local snowfall events; 3) much time will be required to visit and survey plots and/or strips; 4) moose may step on or kick snow over pellet groups and hence some may be missed; and 5) the method is restricted to post-snowfall periods when moose behavior, and possibly defecation rate, may be different than during more snow-free periods. We speculate on the relative efficiency of this technique and suggest settings and conditions where it may be useful.
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