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Winter use and habitat selection of moose in openings and adjacent upland forested habitats Catton, Robert Bruce

Abstract

Two designs were developed to model and compare the effects of scale on resource utilization by moose in a managed lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forest. Statistical models, based on population and individual design levels (using microsite and moderate polygon habitat scales, respectively), were used to 1) test the hypotheses that moose track presence was increased i) in openings of increasing shrub cover, ii) in forests adjacent to openings of increasing shrub cover, 2) model moose utilization of forest cover, based on distance-from-nearest-opening, to determine appropriate leave strip widths adjacent to openings used by moose, 3) further understanding of how different opening and forest cover types influence moose presence and utilization and 4) compare these results from the different designs. Moose track occurrence and habitat attributes were recorded on 55 snow track transects to model moose presence as a function of distance-from- opening-edge and variation in vegetation cover. Over 15,000 UTM relocations were obtained from 15 GPS collared cow moose over two winters, in the same area. Based on track transect data, the model containing bog birch (Betula glandulosa), Salix species and mean shrub height was the best predictor of moose presence. Resource utilization functions indicated natural and forest management openings, up to 40 years old, were utilised more than older forest habitats. Modeling at both scales confirmed the use of early seral openings (natural or harvested) and indicated that forested distance-from-an-opening-edge does not influence resource utilization or presence of moose. Track presence was greater in wetlands with average shrub cover between 6 - 20% and > 20% than within adjacent forest cover but there was no difference between wetlands with shrub cover < 6% and adjacent forest cover. Tracks were more numerous in forest cover adjacent to wetlands with shrub cover > 20% than in forest cover adjacent to wetlands with shrub cover < 6% and 6 - 20%. The study implies that leave strips may have little immediate effect on the use of early seral openings by moose in winter although, this does not rule out that climate, predation or hunting pressure will influence habitat selection in the future.

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