A HISTORY OF MOOSE MANAGEMENT IN UTAH

Michael L. Wolfe, Kent R Hersey, David C Stoner

Abstract


During the first half of the 20th century a moose (Alces alces) population gradually established itself on the North Slope of Utah's Uinta Mountains from founders in the Greater Yellow­stone Ecosystem. Formal management of the species commenced with an aerial survey conducted in 1957, and the first legal hunt in 1958. From this small initial population moose have expanded into other areas of northern Utah and, augmented by transplants, the statewide population has increased to an estimated 3,200 animals as of 2009. In the northern portion of the state moose appear to prosper in riparian willow (Salix sp.) habitats as well as upland shrub-dominated and forested habitats. However, there are indications that these herds are at or approaching carrying capacity. Management programs have included regular aerial surveys, harvest regulation, transplants, and dealing with "nuisance" animals along the urban-wildland interface. Since 1958 a total of 6,119 moose (bulls and cows) have been legally harvested, averaging 288 animals annually in 2004-2008. Since 1973 a total of 345 moose have been translocated within Utah and an additional 115 animals moved to Colorado. These transplants have resulted in disparate success with starter populations generally failing to achieve viability in central and southern Utah. Poaching, predation by cougars (Puma concolor), and to a lesser extent disease have contributed to losses in southern target populations. The limited success of these efforts raises questions regarding the viability of populations in areas with high summer temperatures as well as the specter of climate variation on the persistence of southern populations, generally. Several research projects have been conducted on moose in Utah. Early studies on the Uinta North Slope focused on the nutritional quality of key browse species and the determination of carrying capacity, and subsequent investigations included the effects of experimental manipulation of bull-cow ratios on calf recruitment, and telemetry-based survival studies of transplanted herds. The future of moose in Utah is discussed in light of potential limiting factors including climate change.


Keywords


Alces; competition; disease; habitat; harvest; history; management; moose; predation; Utah

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