Increase in Moose Population and Environmental Concerns Leads to the Use GPS Tracking

19 Sep 2018

The moose population within the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado has been steadily increasing, and the growing number of animals is having an impact on important plants in the park.

Park staff began to notice an uptick in moose being observed on both the west and east sides of the park, but they are not certain how many total moose live in the area. They have also noticed a substantial decrease in important plants throughout the park.

Last year, researchers teamed up with the National Park Service to begin outfitting park-dwelling moose with GPS tracking devices. Researchers hope to tag up to 40 moose throughout the park by 2022. So far, they have successfully collared nine animals. These tracking units send location information twice a day every day to researchers.

Scientists hope the data gained from the GPS tracking of moose will be beneficial for the park’s willow trees and aspens. Back in 2008, the Rocky Mountain National Park’s Elk and Vegetation Management Plan began to reestablish the park’s natural aspen and willow communities by curbing a growing population of Elk in the park.

Park workers were attempting to reduce elk herds because they were also munching on a significant amount of protected willows in the park.

The moose population began to skyrocket when park efforts to reduce elk herds were successful. According to park officials, both willow and aspen are crucial to the park’s wildlife diversity, so efforts to protect these plants are important.

Researchers will monitor the animal’s health, study where they travel frequently and attempt to gain deeper insights into the park’s moose population size. Scientists will be collecting information about each moose’s health metrics and monitor each animal for chronic wasting disease.

This study is the first time moose have been tagged with collars in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

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