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Study: Moose calf survival low

Posted: October 23, 2012 - 9:38pm  |  Updated: October 24, 2012 - 8:20am

Eighty-three percent of the moose calves collared this year in an Alaska Department of Fish and Game calf mortality study died, according to the study’s findings.

The study started in February as a subcomponent to an ongoing examination of the moose populations in Game Management Units 15A and 15C on the Kenai Peninsula, areas targeted for intensive management, said Jeff Selinger, Fish and Game Kenai area wildlife biologist.

“When you’re looking at populations, one of the most important things you can look at is how many animals are coming in and how many are going out,” Selinger said.

The study, which collared 54 calves, was conducted only in Unit 15C, spanning an area south of Tustumena Lake and west of the Kenai Fjords National Park. Of those 54 calves biologists collared, 45 died, according to the study.

Selinger said most wildlife populations in Alaska loose about half their moose calves in their first three to six weeks of life, but the number of deaths in 15C is high.

The preliminary study results show that of the 54 calves that died, brown bears killed 19.

Of the other deaths, black bears killed two, an undetermined bear species killed five, wolves or coyotes killed one, an unknown predator killed three, disease killed one, three drowned, four died from unknown causes, and researchers caused seven deaths when they frightened the cows into abandoning their calves.

The study’s principal investigator, Thomas McDonough, a research biologist for Fish and Game, said the death distributions may change pending further analysis of kill-site evidence, but the “bottom line,” Selinger said, is bears kill a majority of moose calves in their first six weeks of life.

Before Selinger and McDonough conducted the study, they said they knew bears would account for the majority of calf deaths. Predators in general, McDonough said, are a major limiting factor on moose populations.

But, McDonough said, the question is, “Is it the main factor?”

Neither Selinger nor McDonough said they can answer that question now.

“You need to do this for several years to see if there’s a pattern,” Selinger said. “We just finished a record snow level on the Kenai last year. That may play into these statistics. Maybe this’ll be what we see on annual basis, but we can not come out and say this is the norm.”


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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JOAT 10/24/12 - 08:29 pm
These results are not telling

By the end of the first paragraph, I was thinking, "how many of these fatalities were caused by the 'researchers'". I was surprised that they fessed up and admitted to 7 deaths caused by the researchers. That's 16% of the study fatalities. Given that huge skew in the data, you have to throw out the whole study and start over. The methods are clearly flawed and it is about time the public start seriously scrutinizing the methods used by our fish & game folks to gather data and use that data to regulate us.

To make a long article short, you break down this particular study into the following dispositions:

Bears Killed: 26 (48%)
Survived: 9 (17%)
Researchers Killed: 7 (13%)
Canis Killed: 4 (7%)
Unknown Deaths: 4 (7%)
Drownings: 3 (6%)
Disease Killed: 1 (2%)

What did they learn from this study? Nothing. They already knew that bears killed most of the moose calves every year. Now they know that sending people out into the woods to catch moose calves and put bright collars on them is the 2nd leading cause of moose fatalities. I wonder how many of those 26 collared calves were caught by bears because of the presence of a brightly colored, stinky, man-made object dangling around the moose's neck. And while they're at it, maybe they should make those collars with some flotation in them.

By the way... who paid for this "study"? Well, all of us tax-payers, of course.

gfds98765 10/24/12 - 10:43 pm
there's a pattern all

there's a pattern all rightie, a pattern of over educated college knuckleheads trying to buttt into mother natures business and messing with her.
Go back to your offices and stop burning our tax dollars.
Good points JOAT.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 10/25/12 - 10:57 am
Auto's also

My church has gotten 3 moose calves this yr from road kills and i know that that number is off the chart for road kills as well as bear kills.

gfds98765 10/25/12 - 12:15 pm
nice! short sweet & to the

nice! short sweet & to the point, WotW, well done
big green thumbs UP.

Jedediah Smith
Jedediah Smith 10/28/12 - 09:28 am
Wildlife Managers or lack of

Good points made by JOAT. One has to wonder the competency of these so called biologists -looks like on the job training. The public and the resource would have been much better off if the state would have put the money into the real problem, predators, but now we have spent thousands of dollars with information we already knew. The other question the public should be asking is; why it is taking twice the staff to manage the wildlife on the Kenai with half of the results, programs and interaction with the community. After carefully reviewing the information put out by ADF&G, the most glaring fact is the absence of counting/study of these animals from a decade ago. One has to wonder if ADF&G would have been doing their job if the decline in moose population would have been dealt with years earlier.

TSM 10/28/12 - 02:47 pm
Killed on the highways

Nature is going to happen if we are here or not. But, why do we have to slaughter so many on our roads every year. Why not spend the cash that was spent for the ADF&G study of what is "nature" anyway towards. (with the exception of the 7 killed by the study itself) putting more street lights up between Kenai and Soldotna and other places on the highways where moose are known to cross. Enforce the law on having head lights on at all times, everywhere. And if people would stop texting, talking on the phone without a handsfree devise, and less distractions when behind the wheel. Also, I see a of people driving that can not see over the stering wheel. A LOT!! That would increase the population a great deal. The last two years have been really bad for moose on the Spur Highway between Kenai/Soldotna.
ADF&G let many of them starve to death this last winter. Two of them at the propain tank grave yard, one died 10 ft from the road and the other was on a few feet from the company's fence.

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