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Photo: Mike Hoff

Research Spotlight: Moose

The average density of Moose in the Southern Operating Area was:

0.71 individuals/km2

Norbord's Southern Operating Area is predicted to provide highly suitable habitat for Moose. Habitat suitability is lower in the Northern Operating Area.

Moose populations benefit from the increased quantity of young browse created by forestry activities in the Southern Operating Area.

image Photo: Thomas Haeusler
image Photo: Rich Miller
image Photo: Adam Meek

Introduction

Moose (Alces alces) are a large wetland-associated species found in all of the Natural Regions in Alberta.

Moose are particularly well-adapted to life in the boreal forest, as they:

  • are generalist browsers of woody deciduous shrubs;
  • use a wide variety of open habitats in the summer for foraging, such as fire burns, harvested areas, and shrublands;
  • take advantage of mature forests with good snow interception as areas for bedding that provide both thermal and security cover;
  • are adaptable, allowing them to take advantage of opportunities that landscape disturbance sometimes presents, such as increased food in young forests.

However, Moose are sensitive to some types of human footprint—such as roads, industrial facilities, and cutlines—because of increased vulnerability to predators (both animal and human). Moose generally exhibit avoidance and/or low use of these features.

Photo: Jeremy Yoder

Wetlands, lake margins, and other riparian zones are important habitat for Moose, as they forage for salt-rich, submerged vegetation.

Moose Population

image Photo: Wildtrax

Camera trap photo of Moose

Between 2017 and 2019, Moose were detected at 27 of 59 (46%) ABMI camera locations within Norbord's Southern Operating Area and Partner Operating Area.

  • Data collected from wildlife cameras can be used to estimate the density of medium to large mammal species, including Moose.
  • The average density of Moose is 0.71 individuals per km2, with a 90% confidence interval of 0.54 to 0.88 individuals per km2. This is higher than Moose densities reported elsewhere in the boreal region where density estimates are closer to 0.4 individuals per km2.
  • Density estimated from wildlife camera data tend to overestimate true density, so these results should be interpreted as a relative measure rather than an absolute value. Relative density is still useful as a means to compare areas over time.
  • The ABMI plans to deploy wildlife cameras in the Northern Operating Area in 2021.

Species-habitat Associations

Moose use a variety of forest types, vegetation types, as well as different categories of human footprint as indicated by their habitat associations.

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Figure: Moose Habitat Associations. Predicted Moose relative abundance (bars) as a function of vegetation and human footprint type in the forested region. Dots are added to forest types where harvesting occurs and show the predicted species abundance in harvested stands of various ages. Vertical lines represent 90% confidence intervals.
  • Moose relative abundance is highest in open habitat types such as grass and shrub vegetation types, as well as young mixedwood stands originating from natural disturbance and mature/old deciduous forests.
  • Moose relative abundance is also high in wetland habitats such as marsh, graminoid fen, and treed swamps.
  • More information on Moose habitat associations can be found here.

Predicated Relative Abundance

Most of the landscape in Norbord's Southern Operating Area is predicted to provide highly suitable habitat for Moose. Habitat suitability is lower in the Northern Operating Area.

  • The intactness of Moose was 95.1% in the Southern Operating Area, reflecting the cumulative effect of human footprint on this species. This species is predicted to be more abundant than expected compared to reference conditions in this landbase. Higher habitat suitability is likely due in part to forestry activities which increase the amount of the young forest and shrub habitat preferred by Moose. 
  • In the Northern Operating Area, Moose intactness was 99.1% with this species predicted to be slightly less abundant than expected compared to reference conditions. Habitat suitability is generally predicted to be lower in the Northern Operating Area compared to in the south.

Moose (Alces alces)
Photo: Alberta Armstrong

Legend
Figure: Moose Relative Abundance. Predicted relative abundance of Moose in the Northern Operating Area, Southern Operating Area, and Partner Operating Area compared to reference conditions. Predictions were made for each 1 km2 pixel. Blue indicates areas where Moose relative abundance is predicted to be low or absent, and red areas are predicted to have high abundance (i.e., suitable habitat). Zoom into the map for a detailed view of relative abundance in each area.

Effects of Forestry Footprint

Predicted Effects of Forestry Footprint on Moose

The ABMI combines its species habitat models with landbase information to infer the effects of different industrial sectors on Moose at two scales. Local scale effects indicate how much the abundance of Moose changes in the exact areas where forestry footprint occurs. Regional population effects show how much the total population of Moose in the region is predicted to have changed due to that sector’s footprint in the region. Details for calculating sector effects can be found in the Methods.

Local Scale Effects

Moose are predicted to be more abundant where forestry footprint occurs, increasing by:

Northern Operating Area: +3.7%
Southern Operating Area: +37.4%

Moose are positively impacted by the increase in young, shrubby browse created by forestry activities.
Photo: NH53

Regional Population Effects

Moose populations are predicted to be more abundant across each operating area because of forestry footprint, increasing by:

Northern Operating Area: +0.3%
Southern Operating Area: +8.3%

Larger Moose populations can result when food is more abundant.
Photo: David Bailey

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