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.
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:
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