MOOSE ESCAPE BEHAVIOUR IN AREAS OF HIGH HUNTING PRESSURE
Although hunters cause more than 80% of moose mortality in some geographic areas, quantitative studies of how moose attempt to escape humans are surprisingly rare. We experimentally disturbed radio-collared moose of known age and of both sexes to study escape behaviour from humans. We found that larger groups of moose made fewer stops between being disturbed and settling down, and that larger groups exhibited a longer path length before quieting. We detected no significant effect of age (a potential measure of survival rate) on escape behaviour. The escape path of males was significantly longer than females even though the linear distance from the site of disturbance to the location where the moose settled down was not significantly different between the sexes. Overall, the escape path of males from the site of disturbance to where they settled down was significantly more tortuous than that of females. Although males are the preferred prey of hunters, the differences in escape behaviour between the sexes also may contribute to why males are more frequently killed by hunters. Thus, in areas with heavy hunting pressure, hunters may be acting as a selective force that favours animals that immediately run away after disturbance by humans. Finally, published evaluations of the use of hunter observations to index moose populations have often reported that considering the size of a hunting group is necessary to improve the accuracy of those data; our analysis suggests an explanation – differences in escape behaviour between the sexes.
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