Meeteetse Moose Ecology Projecy


The Meeteetse Moose Ecology Project aims to further advance our understanding of factors affecting population performance of moose in their southern distribution. The influence of factors like predation, disease, climate, and foraging resources can vary by population. But, in all southern regions, increasing temperatures are a big concern. Moose are highly susceptible to overheating because they are large, dark-bodied, and lack the ability to sweat. They cope with high temperatures by changing their behavior like foraging in the shade, bedding down during the day, wading in cool water, or migrating to higher elevations. We’ll be comparing how male and female moose in the Wood and Greybull Rivers select habitat to cope with summer heat.

Our hypothesis:

We suspect that there will be a difference in the microclimates of habitat selected by male and female moose. It is well established that male and female moose have different nutritional needs and life histories. So, we expect these differences to persist in how they select daybeds during the warmer months. Males may be free to seek out cooler daybeds because they require lower quality food and have no young to look after. In contrast, females have a lot more to juggle like protecting vulnerable young and finding nutritious food to sustain nursing. These differences may mean that, as summers continue to get hotter, one sex is more at risk of regular overheating.

What's the issue?

Apart from mating season in the fall, male and female ungulates use separate habitats or different resources in the same habitat. This is called sexual segregation. There are a lot of theories as to why this happens. One, is that males are at a lower risk of predation, so they can occupy ‘riskier’ areas. Another, is that males and females require different nutrients, leading them to different geographic areas. We want to understand and compare how male and female moose interact with their thermal and nutritional environments. This could help advance land and population management that considers the unique needs of both sexes.

How're we tackling it?

Often, ungulate research focuses on females because they have a greater effect on populations through reproduction. To address the knowledge gap, we’ve fit males and females with GPS collars to track their movements. Using this information, we will compare movement, habitat use, and foraging behavior between the sexes. Check out ‘How do moose cope with summer heat?’ to get more details on how we plan to compare the thermal environments of male and female moose.

What are our findings?

We are still collecting these data.

What's the issue?

Through our previous work in the Snowy Range, we learned that female moose choose bed sites that reduce heat gain and increase heat loss. We aim to study the thermal properties of daybeds in the Meeteetse region, compare how male and female moose choose beds, and explore whether this habitat selection affects adult survival, reproduction, and calf survival. Knowing how moose respond to high temperatures will allow us to identify those habitats that support important coping mechanisms.

How're we tackling it?

To collect fine scale thermal data at moose beds, we use GPS points from collars to identify daybeds. Then, we set up portable mini-weather stations to compare what an individual chose as a bed to what was available in the area. With these data, we can identify how moose select thermal refuge, compare selection between individuals and sexes, and track how these choices relate to survival and reproduction.

What are our findings?

We are still collecting these data. But, our previous work in the Snowy Range found that moose look for moist soil and standing water to bed down in, especially on warm days. This moisture helps pull heat away from the moose. Check out the Snowy Range Moose Project to learn more about the project.

People working on the project:

Rebecca Levine, Sam Dwinnell, Bart Kroger, Corey Class, and Kevin Monteith

Funders

Mary and Charlie Rumsey, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Mark Newhouse, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition

Publications

Publications coming soon.

Find our other publications on moose Moose

Project updates

  • Project PDF download here
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