Assessment of the status and viability of a population of moose (Alces alces) at its southern range limit in Ontario

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Abstract:

Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of animals are of substantial interest, and across most of their southern range, populations of moose (Alces alces (L., 1758)) are declining, presumably because of climate change. Conditions favouring moose population decline versus numerical increase in select areas of the range are not well understood. During 2006–2009, we tested the hypothesis that moose in southern Ontario formed a viable population near the species’ southern range limit, despite occurrence of climate patterns apparently deleterious for population growth. Our study upheld each of our predictions: (i) high pregnancy rate (83.0%) and annual female survival rate (0.899 (0.859, 0.941; 95% CI)), indicating that the population was increasing (λ = 1.16); (ii) female moose having blood-based condition indices within normal range, despite larger than expected home-range size; and (iii) levels of genetic differentiation indicating that the population was part of a larger metapopulation of moose in the region. We surmise that moose in southern Ontario currently are not subject to the prevalent continental decline, likely owing to favourable site-specific climatic conditions. Future research should elaborate on why select southern moose populations are increasing and whether they will ultimately succumb to die off as effects of climate change become increasingly pronounced.

Keywords: Alces alces; Ontario; analyse de viabilité de la population; genetics; génétique; population viability analysis; production; survie; survival

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/z2012-002

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada. 2: Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada. 3: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Wildlife Research and Development Section, Peterborough, ON K9J 8M5, Canada. 4: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3G5, Canada.

Publication date: March 2, 2012

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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