VARIATION IN FINE-SCALE MOVEMENTS OF MOOSE IN THE UPPER KOYUKUK RIVER DRAINAGE, NORTHCENTRAL ALASKA

Kyle Joly, Timothy Craig, Mathew S. Sorum, Jennifer S. McMillan, Michael A. Spindler

Abstract


Fine-scale movements form the foundation of local habitat selection by animals. In northern interior Alaska, the Dalton Highway Corridor Management Area and other parts of Game Management Unit 24 are accessible to moose hunters from the Dalton Highway. Concern that these areas may be a population sink for moose (Alces alces) inhabiting the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge prompted this study of movements. We found that migratory bulls and cows traveled about the same distance over the course of a year as non-migratory moose. Although counterintuitive, this may reflect the selective foraging behavior of a low density (∼0.1 moose/km2) moose population in habitat with abundant forage. Maximum movement rates by bulls occurred at the onset of rut at the end of the hunting season. This spike in movement may have given local residents the impression that local moose were migratory and vulnerable to hunting from non-residents. Movement rates were lowest in winter for both bulls and cows, and declined with increasing winter severity, but not temperature specifically. Reduced movement rates by cows during the calving season were not readily evident and annual fidelity to calving sites was minimal.

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