MOOSE, Wyo. (AP) Researchers who spent five years lobbing urine-soaked snowballs at moose in the wilds of Alaska and Wyoming have noticed that moose in Grand Teton National Park do not react as dramatically as their Alaska kin to the scent of wolves and grizzly bears.
Joel Berger and Sanjay Pyare, working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, suspect the reason is Wyoming moose encounter predators less frequently.
Based on that result, Berger suspects wolf and grizzly populations have not fully recovered in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosys-tem.
Berger hopes the study will prompt more considerations than raw numbers when wolves and grizzlies are considered for removal from federal protection. The work was reviewed by scientific peers and was recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.''
Recovery should be defined by a suite of recovery processes rather than a simple head count,'' Berger said.
Berger and Pyare wanted to test the response of moose to the smell of typical predators but were unsure how to get the smell to the moose.
They considered putting urine samples on the ground and hoping a moose would walk by. They also considered launching smell samples by slingshot to a spot near a moose. Finally they settled on an all-natural, time-tested projectile: the snowball.
They chose to do their experiment on windless winter days with temperatures in the 30s. Some snowballs were doused with the urine of wolves, grizzlies and coyotes.
Snowballs in control groups were doused with tiger urine or not at all.
Similar experiments used recorded sounds of predators.
It's definitely unorthodox,'' Berger said. But it's been reviewed by our peers, published in high quality journals and been through the test mill.''
Berger said Alaska moose were typically highly upset'' to smell the urine of predators. Moose in Wyoming generally ignored the smells, with the exception of moose who had lost calves to wolves.
The mothers who had not lost calves just stayed put,'' he said. They were not showing the full range of response where they're part of an active predator system.''
For 75 years, moose, elk and bison in the Yellowstone region lived in an ecosystem free of wolves, which were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996.
The area's grizzly bear population has been growing since federal protections were enacted in the 1970s.
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