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Molybdenosis and moose at Highland Valley Copper Swank, Carie-Ann; Gardner, Wendy
In the fall of 2003, a study was conducted at Highland Valley Copper Mine (HVC) to determine if moose (Alces alces) grazing reclaimed mine tailing sites were at risk of molybdenosis – a molybdenum induced copper deficiency that affects ruminant animals. Past research at HVC indicates that the mine site has vegetation with higher molybdenum and copper concentrations then sites that do not have mining potential. To conduct this study, five 50m² plots were selected at each treatment site, HVC and the reference site (Wentworth Creek), and feces and vegetation were collected. All feces deposited (within a one-year period) were collected and the current years’ growth of shrubs, forbs, and grasses were sampled from five 1m² quadrats within each plot. The vegetation and feces were then analysed at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research facility via the Dithiol Method for molybdenum and the Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer Method for copper. Statistical analysis of the data indicated that molybdenum concentrations in feces and molybdenum and copper levels in the vegetation were higher at HVC then at the reference site. The copper concentration in the feces did not differ between sites. Thus, as moose are consuming more molybdenum and copper at HVC then at the reference site, they are at potential risk of molybdenosis. However, based on the extrapolation of results from the cattle studies conducted at HVC and the study on mule deer at Brenda Mines (as literature stating safe levels of molybdenum for moose is unavailable), moose are unlikely to display symptoms of molybdenosis from foraging at HVC.
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