Calling moose lovers: The big day is coming
By Bert Raynes, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: February 13, 2013
The following essay on Shiras moose was written by Aly Courtemanch, terrestrial habitat biologist for Wyoming Department of Game and Fish. I am appreciative of Aly’s lively effort and of her troupe of many knowledgeable co-workers:
One of our local valley denizens, the much-loved Shiras moose (the smallest subspecies of moose), will be the center of attention for the fifth annual Nature Mapping Jackson Hole Moose Day, which is set to take place on Saturday, Feb. 23. The Nature Mapping program is run by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and supported by the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund and many private donors. Moose Day brings together trained citizen scientists and professional biologists to spend a wintry morning scouring Jackson Hole for — you guessed it — moose.
The annual event developed as a collaboration between Nature Mapping citizen scientists and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to gather observations on moose population and distribution trends. Last year, 70 citizen scientists and biologists — from Wyoming Game and Fish, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, and Teton Science Schools — traversed the valley by skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles and cars and recorded 95 individual moose observations. Citizen scientists work in teams and are assigned specific areas to survey, stretching from the Buffalo Valley south to the Hoback and Snake River canyons. They record the location, number, sex and approximate age of all the moose they see. Not only is this a fun and educational event for everyone involved, but the observations provide valuable data to Wyoming Game and Fish. Moose Day observations help fill a data need for private lands in town and in rural subdivisions, where Game and Fish does not actively survey. All of the observations are verified by a Game and Fish biologist and entered into the department’s Wildlife Observation Database as well as the Nature Mapping Jackson Hole database. These data are used for everything from environmental commenting, research study design and the tracking of population and distribution trends to providing data to other partnering agencies.
Over the past four years, Moose Day has contributed 399 moose observations to the database. Moose Day counts each year have ranged from 86 to 124 individual moose; this range likely reflects different snow and visibility conditions for observers each year. Nevertheless, gathering information on moose is vitally important for tracking long-term population trends and seasonal distribution. Both the Jackson and Sublette moose herds reside in parts of Teton County, and while the Sublette herd has been stable the Jackson herd has been experiencing a consistent decline in total numbers and calf recruitment for nearly 20 years.
For whatever reasons, Jackson Hole residents and visitors simply love moose. Maybe it is their majestic presence or perhaps their sometimes gangly gait or amusing behavior. Regardless, people enjoy seeing moose, and it shows in the popularity of Moose Day and the number of moose observations contributed to Nature Mapping year-round. In fact, in the past five years (since Nature Mapping Jackson Hole came to be) nature mappers have contributed 1,877 moose observations to the Wyoming Game and Fish database, which comprise 69 percent of all moose observations for Teton County. Fifteen percent have come from Moose Day alone. This amazing effort by dedicated nature mappers has provided valuable information, especially for private lands around town. Thank you for turning your much-enjoyed moose sightings into something so much bigger. If you would like to learn more about Moose Day and how to become a trained citizen scientist, please visit the Nature Mapping Jackson Hole website at NatureMappingJH.org or call the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation at 307-739-0968.
Thanks, Aly Courtemanch. Sadly, since Aly wrote the above a moose was, ah, “removed” from an already shrinking Jackson Hole population: A yearling moose was struck and killed on Highway 390, the Moose-Wilson Road. Killed on an unfortunately well-known stretch of roadway where wildlife are way too often hit by vehicle. Despite the size of Moose (up to 9 feet in length and 7 feet at the withers), their enemies include parasites, warming temperatures, large carnivores (grizzly bears, wolves), fence, humans armed with firearms and, especially, motor vehicles.
In significant part, people are involved with the fate of moose in Jackson Hole. In significant part, knowing what the moose populations is today is vital. Count moose and their location on Moose Day, Feb 23. Thanks.
Field Notes: Challenging all kinds of hazards, including the earliest spring arrival dates as noted in “A Pocket Guide to Birds of Jackson Hole, The Occurrence, Arrival and Departure Dates, and Preferred Habitat of Birds of the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Area,” two mountain bluebirds were on the National Elk Refuge on Feb. 4 (Kirk Hayenga). Maybe the earliest date. Who know what it means, if anything. Flocks of rosy-finches (Tracy Blue and Hunter Marrow) and Bohemian waxwings (Donna Andrus and Chris Englund and others) are cruising the valley. Goldeneyes are pairing off, and the bills of the females are yellow. An immature Harris’s sparrow in Wilson (Joan Lucas).
© Bert Raynes 2013
Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.