A MOOSE RECOVERY PLAN FOR POLAND: MAIN OBJECTIVES AND TASKS
Hunting statistics showed that moose (Alces alces) numbers in Poland declined from 5,400 animals in 1991 to 1,718 in 2000. A nation-wide ban on moose hunting was imposed in 2001 in response to this decline in moose abundance. The main purpose of this paper is to outline a moose recovery plan in Poland by using verification of hunting records related to moose population numbers, collecting data on population demographic variables, and understanding moose habitat preferences. During 1998-2002 in the forest habitat of north eastern Poland (total area: 311,400 ha) a line intercept snow track index and plot sampling were used to estimate moose population numbers at 276 animals. It was shown that the population census in this area carried out by hunters in this period through a guess-estimate method overestimated the moose population by 46.0%. Research in Augustowska Forest (110,200 ha) shows that the autumn recruitment rate was 64.4 calves per 100 cows, and the ratio of cows to bulls was 1.34. Analysis of moose population dynamics during 4 hunting seasons (1998-2001) shows that the maximum sustainable harvest is about 30% of population numbers estimated in February. Habitat selection by moose was tested using Bailey's 95% simultaneous confidence intervals. Moose preferred habitats in bog and wet sites dominated by deciduous and mixed forests. The decline in moose populations in Poland over 20 years was caused by overestimation of population numbers and over-harvest. It is suggested that a moose recovery program in Poland should be started by locating 2 large moose management/conservation units where moose population numbers should be estimated by reliable methods, and sustained harvest would then maintain a viable moose population. At the same time, forestry in moose wintering areas should stimulate deciduous browse production as well as providing estimates of forest damage caused by moose using different standards than those applied in lowland commercial forests.
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