STATUS AND TRENDS OF MOOSE POPULATIONS AND HUNTING OPPORTUNITY IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES
Keywords:Alces alces shirasi, Colorado, hunter harvest, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, population trends, range, Shiras moose, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
We review the state of knowledge of moose (Alces alces shirasi) in the western US with respect to the species’ range, population monitoring and management, vegetative associations, licensed hunting opportunity and hunter harvest success, and hypothesized limiting factors. Most moose monitoring programs in this region rely on a mixture of aerial surveys of various formats and hunter harvest statistics. However, given the many challenges of funding and collecting rigorous aerial survey data for small and widespread moose populations, biologists in many western states are currently exploring other potential avenues for future population monitoring. In 2015, a total of 2,263 hunting permits were offered among 6 states, with 1,811 moose harvested and an average success rate per permit-holder of 80%. The spatial distribution of permits across the region shows an uneven gradient of hunting opportunity, with some local concentrations of opportunity appearing consistent across state boundaries. On average, hunting opportunity has decreased across 56% of the western US, remained stable across 17%, and increased across 27% during 2005–2015. Generally, declines in hunting opportunity for moose are evident across large portions (62–89%) of the “stronghold” states where moose have been hunted for the longest period of time (e.g., Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming). In contrast, increases in opportunity appear more common at peripheries of the range where populations have expanded, including most of Colorado, northeastern Washington, southern Idaho, and eastern Montana. There are many factors of potential importance to moose in this region, including parasites, predators, climate, forage quality, forage quantity, and humans. State wildlife agencies are currently conducting a variety of research focused on population vital rates, the development of monitoring techniques, forage quality, trace mineral levels, and evaluation of relative impacts among potential limiting factors.
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