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Keywords:

  • Alces alces;
  • black bear;
  • cause-specific mortality;
  • eastern wolf;
  • hazard;
  • hunting;
  • moose;
  • Ontario;
  • survival analysis;
  • Ursus americanus

Abstract

Although some populations remain stable, moose (Alces alces) density and distribution have been declining in many areas along the southern edge of their North American distribution. During 2006–2009, we deployed 99 vaginal implant transmitters (VITs) in 86 adult female moose in central Ontario, Canada to assist in locating and radiocollaring neonatal moose calves. We monitored radiocollared calves to estimate calf survival and assess the relative importance of specific causes of death. Calves in the western portion of our study area (WMU49) were exposed to a 6-day general hunting season, whereas calves in the eastern portion of our study area (Algonquin Provincial Park [APP]) were not exposed to hunting. Annual survival for 87 collared calves was greater in the protected area than the harvested area (72.4 ± 6.8% and 55.8 ± 8.3%, respectively) and averaged 63.7 ± 7.1% overall. Predation by wolves (Canis sp.) and American black bears (Ursus americanus) was the dominant cause of death but occurred predominately in APP, whereas other natural mortality agents were 4× more common in WMU49. Only 16% of the collared calves in WMU49 were harvested each year despite a high proportion (approx. 50%) of accessible, public land. Most natural mortality occurred prior to the autumn hunting season such that reductions in natural mortality had little potential to compensate for calf harvest. Overall, calf survival in our study area was moderate to high and our findings suggest predator control or further restrictions of calf hunting in this area is not justified. © The Wildlife Society, 2013