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In 2010, energy development by Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP) in the Hoback Basin of Jackson, Wyoming motivated conservationists to provide baseline information regarding potential impacts of energy development on the local moose population. Although plans for energy development in the Hoback Basin have now subsided, very little is known about moose demography or movement in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). The Sublette moose project was initiated to fill those data gaps and provide information on the survival and reproduction rate of female moose, rates of juvenile recruitment, and seasonal home ranges.
SCI Foundation and the Hunter Legacy Fund recently supported the fourth capture effort to learn whether moose are using the habitat encompassed within the energy company’s leasing zone. This research also seeks to investigate if and how two distinct but adjacent moose populations (Sublette and Jackson herds) in the GYE are suppressed by grizzly bears and wolves. Researchers anticipate that study results will allow them to identify habitats within the GYE that are still capable of supporting sustainable moose populations, versus those habitats where moose struggle to survive.
Researchers used ultrasound devices to measure thickness of body and collected blood samples for pregnancy and disease testing. Movements of the moose were tracked using data from GPS collars.
The study showed that percent body fat of adult female moose in Sublette is low. This likely suggests that poor habitat quality explains why survival, pregnancy, and birth rates are low. Habitat quality is the limiting factor for moose in this region of Wyoming, which is nearing the southern periphery of moose range. Poor body condition, resulting from poor habitat conditions is likely increasing moose vulnerability to predation. This study is now analyzing data on the relationship between bears, and moose to better understand whether predators are also a significant limiting factor.
The goal of this project is to provide the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) with the most current information for managing one of the largest moose herds in the Rocky Mountains. Information from this project will help inform the WGFD regarding critical moose habitat relative to the placement of well pads, should the leasing zone be developed. Further, this study is providing comprehensive data on the influence of nutritional condition and predation on the demography of this important Wyoming moose herd.
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