Even though moose at the southern end of their range have only come onto the scene in the past 150 years, they have become an iconic and revered species in this short time. Yet, 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 studied males, females, and calves in the Wood River and surrounding region from 2020 to 2023. We attached GPS collars to males and females, and the females were equipped with cameras that captured footage such as the image to the right. Overall, we are exploring how moose seek available food and thermal refuge in such diverse habitats, including riparian, agricultural, and montane areas.
Are some mothers better than others?
Offspring survival has a big effect on whether populations grow, remain stable, or shrink. For ungulates, maternal care is often the difference between life and death for vulnerable young. Moose mothers are notoriously protective of their calves, and we want to understand whether some mothers are better than others at keeping their calf alive into adulthood. We are exploring whether age, nutritional condition, and the attentiveness of mom may be affecting the survival of moose calves.
Do individual traits change the ways moose cope with warm temperatures?
Moose are highly susceptible to heat stress because of their large bodies, dark hair, and inability to sweat. To cope with heat, moose slow their movement and seek out bed sites with cool microclimates. But not all moose have the same tolerance for heat. Individual traits like sex, reproductive status, and body size can affect heat sensitivity. We are unpacking whether moose with different traits need different forms of refuge habitat to cope with summer temperatures.
What shapes reproductive behavior, effort, and success in male moose?
“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.
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.
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.