Friday June 3, 2016 the US FWS filed an Evaluation of a Petition To List the U.S. Population of Northwestern Moose (Alces alces andersoni) as an Endangered or Threatened Distinct Population Segment (DPS). The population of Moose being considered are in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The population of moose in these states has been drastically declining due perhaps to parasites and wolves.
So what does that have to do with us?
Currently the Montana FWP is conducting a 10 study on the Montana moose population. Following is the e-mail conversation with Nick Decesare, Research Wildlife Biologist, MFWP, who is conducting the study. I will add that Nick is always willing to share information and has presented updates on his study at the Whitlash Hall for Marias River Livestock Association twice in the last few years. He would welcome any question you may have, so I e-mailed him and asked about the moose situation here in our area.
I think a fair amount of the motivation to list moose is coming from the steep declines they’ve seen in Minnesota. With respect to our studies, thus far we aren’t seeing anything of that magnitude in Montana. In our 3 study areas we are seeing generally one that may be declining somewhat (Big Hole), one that looks close to stable (Cabinets), and one that seems to be increasing (Rocky Mtn Front).
In the Big Hole there appear to be some parasite/disease factors affecting survival rates of the adults, but thus far I wouldn’t put it into a category of extreme concern that would warrant listing status. For more info we know have a webpage where we’ve been posting annual reports and such, or let me know if you have any other questions:
When we met a few years ago I probably mentioned that we were also interested in looking at genetics to see if we could identify differences among the different moose populations or subspecies within Montana, including those expanding into the Sweet Grass Hills and further east along the Canadian border. The listing petition concerns the northwestern subspecies, which is thought to span
from about the Yukon over to Michigan, and traditionally hasn’t been thought to occur in Montana, until possibly recent times with the moose expanding into your area and further east.
Our genetics project is still underway, and has grown substantially such that we know have moose genetic samples spanning from Alaska down to Colorado and over to North Dakota and Saskatchewan…. So no final results yet but we should have some info about that coming soon too, with possible implications regarding the genetics component of this petition to list the northwestern subspecies.
… our initial research question was just to see if there was evidence that the moose in the US Rocky Mountains (traditionally called Shiras moose) are genetically different than those further north in Canada. It has included getting some samples from moose as far east as North Dakota so yes I think we may end up with some information that may be of relevance to the USFWS when our results come back. As of now we still have a batch of about 100 samples at the genetics lab waiting for lab analyses…. So nothing final in terms of results yet.
Interestingly in North Dakota their eastern populations of moose bordering Minnesota are declining, but their western populations closer to Montana are increasing.
In terms of what the petition could mean for landowners in Montana, it would be tough to say as of now. USFWS will have to review the evidence to determine what/where that subspecies of moose really is or isn’t, as well as what their status is across the US portion of that subspecies’ range.
Keep in touch!