Study checking out behaviours of farmland moose

Lisa
Lisa Goudy
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Because of a growing farmland moose population, Dr. Ryan Brook believes the moose study is important.

“There’s been lots and lots of studies done on moose, but they live in the boreal forest. I’ve never seen a peer-reviewed publication that talks about farmland moose and so they’re totally different,” he said. “What do they eat? Where do they live? Is there predation because we don’t have wolves on the farmland. There’s all these questions.”

An assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the animal and poultry science department, Brook presented an update on the research program at the last day of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation’s 85th annual convention on Saturday at the Heritage Inn.

The Saskatchewan Farmland Moose Project (SFMP) is based out of the University of Saskatchewan with the support of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment.

The project began in February 2013 and around that time, researchers began to put satellite collars out to track moose movement and habitat. Last year, researchers put 23 collars and in total, there will be 50 moose collared. No drugs are used and after the collar is put on, in accordance with the Canadian Council for Animal Care guidelines, the animal is set free.

The collars provide hourly updates on the locations of the moose.

“We’ve done only adult females so far, but we want to move into adult bulls next year and hopefully into juvenile animals the year after that ideally, if there’s funding,” said Brook.

He said there is a good year of data from year one, but multiple years of data are required.

“Last year we had lots of snow and the snow came early and it left late. I remember walking across a drift in the farmland area the first week of May,” said Brook. “That was a weird year. So obviously this year might be different.”

In the future, the project plans on collecting data regarding calf reproductive success, highway crossings, habitat corridors and other trends.

“We’ve got a whole shopping list of lots of crazy ideas,” said Brook. “I think there’s enough really key questions it would probably take 10 years to do this properly.”

There have been a number of moose-vehicle collisions on Highway 11.

“It’s good moose habitat and it’s also one of the busiest highways in Saskatchewan. It’s two lanes each way,” said Brook. “Lots of traffic, lots of very high speed and lots of good habitat.”

But there are plenty of moose-vehicle collisions in other areas of the province as well, he said. He’s hoping the project will spread awareness.

“When I first moved here and I drove down the highway, I was going a lot faster. Since I’ve started doing this study, I’ve slowed down a lot and I’m much more vigilant,” said Brook.

“I also hope that the science is going to inform decisions. The province is moving towards a management plan for farmland moose. So they’re going to be making some key decisions in the next few years and we need to help them. Making decisions based on data from what moose do in the boreal forest is not going to cut it. We need actual farmland moose data.”

For more information on the project, visit the Facebook page called Saskatchewan Farmland Moose Project.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

 

Organizations: University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Heritage Inn Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Canadian Council for Animal Care

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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