TEMPORAL ASSESSMENT OF PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS AND REPRODUCTIVE STATUS OF MOOSE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Keywords:Alces alces, body weight, moose, New England, physical characteristics, reproductive status
Biological data collected from harvested moose (Alces alces) were analyzed to assess whether temporal change has occurred in the physical and reproductive condition of moose from 1988–2009 in New Hampshire. Measurements included age and field-dressed body weight of both sexes, number of corpora lutea (CL) and ovulation rate of females, and antler beam diameter (ABD) and antler spread of males. Similar data were obtained from Maine and Vermont for comparative analysis. The only significant changes (P <0.05) occurred in the yearling age class: mean body weight of both sexes, number of CL, and ABD all declined in New Hampshire. The current ovulation rate (~20%) and mean body weight (<200 kg) of yearling females in New Hampshire and Vermont were considered low. The declines measured in yearlings, yet relative stability in adults, are consistent with the presumption that winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) impact the productivity of moose populations through reduced calf survival and growth and fecundity of yearlings. Density-dependent factors related to habitat change are also discussed given the recent, rapid expansion of moose in the 3 states. Continued monitoring of physical parameters and productivity of harvested moose, particularly the yearling cohort, is warranted to better assess the relationships among winter ticks, habitat quality, and moose populations.
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