MICROHABITAT CHARACTERISTICS OF MOOSE WINTER ACTIVITY SITES IN SOUTH-CENTRAL MONTANA
Analysis of microhabitat of animal activity sites may help determine both site-specific and activity-specific selection criteria and can have important management applications that can replicate similar site characteristics. I compared physical and vegetative characteristics of winter feeding (N = 46), resting (N = 17), and travel route (N = 19) sites of Shiras moose (Alces alces shirasi) in south-central Montana to those of 84 randomly selected sites within moose home ranges. Means of tree diameters, tree densities, sapling densities, percent shrub coverages, percent canopy closures, canopy heights, and slopes were not independent of site categories. Feeding sites in riparian habitats were higher in shrub coverage than all other activity site categories and random sites. Feeding sites in riparian habitats had lower percentage canopy closure, lower canopy height, less slope, and lower values of tree density, tree dbh, and sampling dbh then randomly selected riparian sites. Travel corridor sites used by moose in upland forests were higher in percent shrub coverage than randomly selected forest sites, and had less slope, lower average tree dbh, and lower average sapling dbh. A discriminant analysis of riparian habitat sites constructed from measured site variables correctly classified 71% of resting sites, 70% of feeding sites, 57% of travel route sites, and 40% of random sites. A discriminant analysis of a planned forest habitat sites correctly classified 81% of random sites and 75% of travel corridor sites. Analysis of Mahalanobis distances indicated that site categories represented significantly different groups, with the exception of random sites and travel corridor sites in riparian habitats. Significant differences in tree and sapling densities, canopy height enclosure, shrub coverage, slope and aspect among moose activity sites demonstrate variables common to forest management prescriptions. Such an approach offers potential for forest managers to manage individual sites in ways that create microhabitat moose may use for specific activities.
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