Winter moose survival in Game Management Unit 15A may be iffy this winter because the animals are starting in poor condition, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Thomas McDonough told the Peninsula Clarion.
In 2008, the state estimated a moose population between 1,825 and 2,352 animals in the unit.
Last week, McDonough wrapped up field work that involved recapturing cows collared with tracking devices in Units 15A and 15C. The work was part of a study examining moose population survival and reproduction rates to help determine if predator control measures in those management units should be considered.
“These 15A (largely from the Sterling Highway north) moose are supposed to be at their peak condition around this time of year,” McDonough told the Clarion. Low levels of fat and muscle were the problem, he said. Typically, fatter cows are more likely to conceive and produce a calf that will survive the winter.
But the sparse snow seen so far this winter may help moose survival. “Once you get snow that typically exceeds the chest height of a calf, then you start having a higher level of calf mortality and nutritional stress,” McDonough told the Clarion. “A lot of the available browse that would normally be available is covered up by snow, and it’s harder to walk through deep snow.”