Nearly three dozen moose in the Entiako area southwest of Vanderhoof received wardrobe accessories last month courtesy of the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO).
Greig Bethel, public affairs officer for FLNRO, said Feb. 28 that fish and wildlife officials applied radio collars to 33 moose in management units in the area recently. The ministry hopes to collar another dozen animals in the same area this month.
Bethel said the collars will allow wildlife biologists to track the Entiako animals’ movements throughout the study area. Fifteen of the collars are capable of transmitting data for up to 24 months, while the remaining 30 will stay active for as long as five years.
The Entiako work is part of a comprehensive, five-year provincial study that will investigate recent declines in moose populations in five areas of the province from Fort St. James to the Bonaparte region north of Kamloops. It’s designed to provide wildlife officials with insight into how several factors – including hunting pressure, predation, disease, and forestry-related changes to the landscape – influence moose mortality, and help determine what can be done to reverse population declines.
Although final results of the study won’t be available for several years, wildlife biologists will be able to use preliminary data to direct the management of moose throughout B.C.
“The study is focusing principally on areas in B.C. where there have been declines,” explained Bethel. “Moose surveys throughout most of the Skeena region continue to indicate relatively stable populations, (but) in 2011/12, a survey of the Bulkley Valley/Lakes District confirmed that the moose population had declined from 2004 by 20 per cent.”
Bethel stressed that despite the decline, the local moose population is considered to be “comparatively healthy, with good calf recruitment and bull to cow ratios above provincial objectives.
“The only area of concern was that the calf-to-cow ratio observed in 2013 was quite low, possibly an indication of high predation rates,” he added.
The FLNRO’s most recent (2011) estimate pegged BC’s moose population at between 145,000 and 235,000 animals. New estimates will likely be released this summer.
The provincial moose study will engage 11 wildlife biologists, one wildlife veterinarian, and several other staff members over the next 60 months. This year’s work is expected to cost $430,000.