Meeteetse Moose Project

A large female moose stands in the open sagebrush, looking directly at the camera. Her coat is thick and healthy, and the sky behind her is a clear blue.
Photo credit: Alex May

Over the last two decades, nearly half of the moose populations in their southern extent have declined. These declines are sobering because conditions here, in Wyoming, may be a warning of what moose throughout their range will face as the climate warms. Many factors can influence moose populations, including predation, disease, climate, and foraging opportunities. Despite widespread interest in moose conservation, the complexities of how moose are influenced by their environment makes for a challenging assessment of efforts needed to bolster moose populations.

We started the Meeteetse Moose Project in 2020 to understand what factors are limiting moose populations and identify how we can support the persistence of moose in Wyoming. We followed 30 moose, half males and half females, to monitor their behavior, reproduction, and survival. We tracked down females to see if they had a live calf and continued to monitor survival throughout the rest of the summer. Each GPS collar fit on female moose was equipped with a camera, allowing us to learn about moose behavior from afar. This project wrapped up in 2023, and the findings are in the process of being published in peer-reviewed papers.

A camera collar image shows the chin of a female moose and her orange calf laying in front of her.
Footage from camera collar.

Main Findings

A game camera image shows a mother moose and two calves walking through greenery.
Photo credit: Rebecca Levine

Moose need cool, wet habitat.

Moose can’t change their size or the fact that they can’t sweat, but they can change their behavior to stay cool. One way moose do this is by choosing to bed down in places with standing water or shade.

We learned that moose, both males and females, chose bed sites that were cooler than surrounding areas. They also chose bed sites with denser vegetation, more canopy cover, and wetter soil than what was in the immediate vicinity. This means we can help moose by managing for areas that hold water all summer long and that have good shelter from the sun.

A bull moose stands facing away from the viewer. He is in a winter willow complex filled with snow.
Photo credit: Tayler LaSharr

Autumn temperature and age drive mating in males.

Photo credit: Rebecca Levine
Photo credit: Rebecca Levine

Male and female moose choose different cooling habitat.

When we looked closer at how moose are choosing bed sites, we found differences between males and females. Female moose chose bed sites with more canopy cover, even though that meant slower wind speeds. Males, on the other hand, did not seek out canopy cover and that meant they had more cooling from the wind. This difference was surprising, because moose have thick and dark coats that make cooling from wind ineffective and heat from the sun very powerful. We are still working on understanding why males seem to be making a “bad” decision when it comes to the tradeoff between wind and cover, so stayed tuned!


Adult survival is high, calf survival is steady. 

Collared moose with orange calf stand facing the viewer. Bare trees fill the background.

Ongoing work: what makes a good mom?

Moose give birth in unusual places, like out in the middle of the sagebrush, and we want to dig into whether some moms are picking safer places than others. One of the many ways that we can understand maternal care is using GPS collars with cameras on them. From these videos, we get information about what plants moose are eating, what habitats they are in, whether their calf has disappeared, and possibly how attentive they are as mothers. The recordings give us a never-before-seen look into the life of a moose, and we are using this to figure out what helps calves grow into adulthood.

A female moose stands in the midst of a willow stand, with sagebrush in the background. The willows are a reddish brown as if it is fall.
Photo credit: Tayler LaSharr


A mountainous forest region is shown while a person takes notes on a data sheet.

Scientific papers

“Extending body condition scoring beyond measurable rump fat to estimate full range of nutritional condition for moose,” by Rebecca L. Levine, Rachel A. Smiley, Brett R. Jesmer, Brendan A. Oates, Jacob R. Goheen, Thomas R. Stephenson, Matthew J. Kauffman, Gary L. Fralick, and Kevin L. Monteith. Published 2022 in Alces.

“Helicopter‐based immobilization of moose using
butorphanol–azaperone–medetomidine” by Rebecca L. Levine, Samantha P. H. Dwinnell, Bart Kroger, Corey Class, and Kevin L. Monteith. Published 2021 in Wildlife Society Bulletin.

To see the other scientific papers that have come from this research, visit our list of peer-reviewed publications.

Art by Ben Regan.


“Cameras on collars give scientists intimate view of natural world,” by Christine Peterson, 2023. Link.

“Still hope for Meeteetse moose, says expert,” by Buzzy Hassrick for Cody Enterprise, 2023. Link.

“Wyoming’s moose population growing,” by Leo Wolfson for Cody Enterprise, 2022. Link.

“Extended summers hurting southern moose populations,” by Mark Davis for Powell Tribune, 2022. Link

A woman and a child stand at a table, going through informational cards together.

Outreach and engagement

Rebecca shared her work and the excitement of being a wildlife ecologist at the Latina Youth Conference at the University of Wyoming. She has also shared her work with members of the public with numerous public talks and presentations.

Project lead

Rebecca Levine

Rebecca is thrilled by a sheep skull.

Collaborators, partners, and funders

The Meeteetse Moose Project is a highly collaborative study in all aspects of development, operations, and funding. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has offered logistical support, personnel, and indispensable local knowledge. Funders include the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, Mary and Charlie Rumsey, Anne Young, Jim Nielson, and Mark Newhouse. A special thank you to Mary Rumsey, whose passion for conservation and the well-being of moose made this project possible. The United States Forest Service and Wyoming State Veterinary Lab have assisted in permitting, sample analyses, and protocol development. Many private landowners in the Meeteetse region have supported us through land access. And, thank you to the Pitchfork Ranch for generously donating field housing.