NUTRITONAL CONDITION OF ADULT FEMALE SHIRAS MOOSE IN NORTHWEST WYOMING
Keywords:Alces alces shirasi, condition, disease, hair, hematology, moose, nutrients, nutrition, parasites, rump fat, serum chemistry, ultrasound, Wyoming
The "animal indicator concept" assumes that because an animal is a product of its environment, it likely reflects the quality of its environment. Although this concept has been applied to assess population condition and habitat quality for Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas), to our knowledge this is the first time it has been used to assess the nutritional status of a Shiras moose (A.a. shirasi) population. We investigated the physical condition and nutritional status of adult (≥ 2 years) female Shiras moose captured in northwest Wyoming during the winters of 2005-2007. Rump fat depth was measured via ultrasonography and biological samples were collected and analyzed for hematology, serum chemistry, micro- and macronutrients, endo- and ectoparasites, and bacterial and viral serology. Five blood parameters believed to be important predictors of moose condition (packed cell volume, total serum protein, hemoglobin [Hb], calcium [Ca], and phosphorous [P]) were compared to data from Alaskan moose considered to be in average-above average condition. Micro- and macronutrient values were evaluated based on published deficiency levels for domestic herbivores. We conducted a correlation analysis to determine if a significant relationship existed between hematological and serum chemical parameters and rump fat depth. Mean rump fat depth did not differ among years and was greater than reported values for Alaskan moose. However, a high proportion of sampled moose had Hb, Ca, and P values lower than Alaskan moose that were considered to be in average condition. Hair and serum micro- and macronutrient analyses indicated a high proportion of moose were potentially deficient in copper, zinc, manganese, and P. We observed a marginally significant relationship between depth of rump fat and two serum chemical parameters (aspartate amimotransferase and lactate dehydrogenase). The results are suggestive of a Shiras moose population in marginal physical condition that is probably related to less than optimal habitat quality. These findings should assist managers in evaluating the health of Shiras moose populations throughout their range.
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