FECUNDITY AND SUMMER CALF SURVIVAL OF MOOSE DURING 3 SUCCESSIVE YEARS OF WINTER TICK EPIZOOTICS
Moose (Alces alces) populations in northern New Hampshire and western Maine experienced 3 successive years of high winter tick infestations (epizootics) in 2014–2016 that resulted in late-winter calf mortality rates >70%. To assess productivity in these populations, we measured fecundity rates of yearling and adult cow moose, and neonatal and summer calf survival. Parturition, fecundity, and survival were measured via direct observation by stalking VHF and GPS radio-collared cows (n = 177) in May-August, 2014–2016. Calving rates for yearlings and adults averaged 0 and 57%, respectively; there was no twinning documented. Summer calf survival to August was high overall (83%), with 85% of the mortality occurring in the first week of life. Calving and twinning rates declined since last measured in New Hampshire in 2002–2005 and were below the North American average; conversely, summer survival of calves was considered normal. Given that optimal habitat has increased in the past 15 years in the study area that is dominated by commercial forestry, lower productivity is presumably related to the additive impacts of successive winter tick epizootics on year-round condition of cows.
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