Moose (Alces alces) are an abundant and important wildlife species in northern British Columbia (BC). To First Nations, moose are culturally important and represent a significant source of food. Moose also constitute a large portion of provincial game harvests. However, recent surveys of moose populations around the province indicate that declines may have occurred in many regions (e.g., Cariboo ~17% – 60% decline, central Omineca ~50% decline, Bulkley Valley Lakes District ~20% decline, and Nass Wildlife Management Area ~70% decline).
In 2016, BC Hydro engaged staff at Wildlife Infometrics in a multi-year study to further understand the factors that may be limiting moose populations in the Williston Basin in north-central BC. Two specific study areas were chosen: the West Parsnip and Moberly. Moose populations in the study areas appear to be stable but there has been a recent large-scale outbreak of mountain pine beetle (MPB) in the region which may compromise that stability. The MPB kills lodegpole pine trees over large areas, leading to extensive change in forest structure. The Chief Forester of BC has responded to the outbreak by allowing large increases in salvage of the dead pine, which also affects moose habitat values and has possibly increased the vulnerability of moose to predators and hunters.
Our goal in this investigation is to have 40 cow moose in each study area fitted with special collars equipped with Global Positioning System devices. We will monitor the collared cows regularly in order to determine causes and rates of mortality as well as calf production and juvenile recruitment. This study provides a contrast to similar investigations ongoing in central and southern BC, where the MPB outbreak occurred less recently.
Funding is provided by the Peace Region Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and Public Stakeholders who work together to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by existing BC Hydro dams.