GPS Tracking of Moose in Vermont

26 Jan 2017

A multi-year study is being initiated by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to get a better understanding of moose herd in the state.

There is an increased amount of stress being placed on Northeast moose due to winter ticks (parasites). And, as the spring and fall weather hits, the ticks are becoming more abundant leading to some of the moose dying from loss of blood and hypothermia as they rub off their hair that insulates their bodies trying to get the ticks off themselves.

The Fish & Wildlife Department researchers will begin tagging around 60 moose at the start of January 2017 with radio-collars to track their movements and figure out what is causing their mortality. Wildlife capture contractors will capture the moose with helicopter nets utilizing tactics that reduce the amount of harm and stress on the animals.

Then the moose will be tracked by department staff for a few years through the GPS tracking collars and by going to the field directly to visit the moose and record their observations.

Moose herds have previously been tracked with the same methods in three other states: New York, New Hampshire and Maine. Vermont will be the fourth state to conduct this type of study.

The researchers are hoping to get a better understanding if the moose calves in Vermont are able to survive to adulthood. During this study period, if any of the moose die, they are trying to figure out the cause to see if it could be due to predators like bears or coyotes, winter ticks or brainworm infections. Researchers will also be examining the females to see if they are able to reproduce successfully and where the young calves go after leaving the side of their mother.

There has been a decrease in Vermont moose — going from around 5,000 individuals in the earlier 2000 years to around 2,200 these days. Most of this decrease in moose population was through the biologists’ efforts of trying to balance out the herd with available habitat during a time when the moose were thought to be overabundant.

Just one moose is able to consume over 25 pounds of food in a single day with their grazing harming the ecosystems of the forest as well as theirs and other animals’ habitats.

Cedric Alexander, who is Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s lead moose biologist, claimed that decreasing the herd population deliberately through hunting might have additionally helped the animals avoid negative effects of parasites (winter ticks). When moose become overabundant, the ticks tend to spread more quickly, Alexander said. And by deliberately reducing the herd and their impact on the landscape, it’s thought that it also accounted for the lower winter tick rates on the Vermont moose when compared to the Maine or New Hampshire moose.

 

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