Northwestern Canada: moose population increasing, but calf numbers low in Kluane National Park

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‘Low calf recruitment was also seen outside the park by surveys done by Yukon government of moose and caribou’ says Carmen Wong, Ecologist with Parks Canada. (Jeffrey Peter/Parks Canada)
A recent aerial survey shows that moose populations are increasing in Kluane National Park, but something isn’t quite right — there aren’t many calves.

Kluane National Park and Reserve Resource conservation staff completed the survey for the park, near Haines Junction, Yukon, in November. This year, staff counted 298 moose in a 544 kilometre area.

The surveys, done by helicopter, take about four and a half hours and have been conducted regularly since 1983.

Carmen Wong, a Parks Canada ecologist, says that although the overall numbers are encouraging, the low calf count is “a bit of a warning sign.”

Wong says normally, staff will see 35 calves per 100 cows, but this year, there were only nine or ten — and the issue isn’t limited to the park.

“Low calf recruitment was also seen outside the park by surveys done by Yukon government of moose and caribou”, she said.

A spotter looks for moose over Kluane National Park. Parks Canada says it was difficult to spot moose populations because of low snow conditions this year. (Jeffrey Peter, Parks Canada)

In Kluane National Park, a wetter, deeper snow pack in the spring can lead to decreased birth rates, which could partially explain the decrease, said Wong. The harsher conditions make it more difficult for the animals to travel.

However, Wong said that Parks Canada will still need to look into the root causes of the calf decline.

“The monitoring program is actually one of the longest-running data sets in the Yukon, so it really gives us the benefit of being able to tease out the role of certain climatic factors and environmental factors,” she said.

“In the long run we don’t entirely know what’s causing the ups and downs in this population. But we’re still trying to figure it out.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: First Nation bans Indigenous harvest of declining caribou herd in northern Quebec, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s wolf population has exploded… but winter is coming, YLE News

Norway: Norwegian «slow TV» follows reindeer herd to the coast of the Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia plans fenced parks to confine reindeer herding in Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Indigenous reindeer herders request emergency aid after drought, wildfires ravage Sweden, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Amid shrinking sea ice, hunters race to adapt in Alaska, Alaska Public Media

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Mike Rudyk, CBC News

Mike Rudyk, CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

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