Ongoing study tracks 19 additional moose using GPS collars
By Mike Lynch
Researchers collared 19 more New York moose with GPS units in January as part of an ongoing study to learn more about the younger segment of the animal’s population.
The collars provide researchers with location data, movements, and activity patterns including where young moose are going after leaving their family unit.
In addition, the collars send out an alert to researchers when the animal has died. Once that happens, researchers go into the field to investigate the cause of death.
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Not much is known about moose calf dispersal or what is killing them.
Wildlife biologists are looking to see if parasites are a factor. These parasites, including winter ticks, brain worm, and giant liver fluke, and their associated diseases have increasingly become a management concern in the Northeast.
“The opportunity to capture and sample live moose provides us with a ton of valuable information about moose health,” said Krysten Schuler, wildlife disease ecologist and director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab. “Unfortunately, we are seeing more evidence of parasites, like winter ticks and liver flukes, on the young moose, but this study allows us to identify management options for these problems.”
The research is part of a multiphase project that goes back to at least 2015 and has looked at factors influencing reproductive and survival rates of adults, availability of moose habitat and population estimates. The information gathered will be used to guide the state’s moose management plan.
This is the second year the state Department of Environmental Conservation, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cornell University, and Native Range Capture Services have studied moose calves in the northern Adirondacks. The most recently collared moose were captured in Franklin County.
Last year, 14 were fitted with GPS collars. So far, six have died. Three succumbed to injuries, two had liver fluke infections, and the last one has yet to be recovered for necropsy.
The DEC’s most recent population estimate for moose is 700 animals. One of the questions this study is hoping to answer is why the population has not grown into the thousands, like populations in Vermont and New Hampshire.
“There are multiple stressors in New York that might be limiting moose population growth,” said Angela Fuller, Cornell University professor and U.S. Geological Survey New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research unit leader.
“Our research team includes wildlife and disease ecologists and wildlife managers, working closely to better understand the role that parasites might be playing in limiting moose populations. The recent moose collaring effort will allow us to estimate calf survival and better understand moose health,” Fuller said.
This year’s research also included sampling white-tailed deer pellets and water sources to detect and better understand the prevalence and distribution of brain worm and giant liver fluke across the landscape.
Larvae from these parasites are found in deer scat, where they are picked up by snails and then incidentally consumed by moose as they forage on plants. Trail cameras were deployed in the fall of 2021 to determine range overlap between deer and moose and to monitor hair loss on moose infested with winter ticks.
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