Moose research continues in Rocky Mountain National Park
Late last summer, park staff began a moose research project to better understand how moose use habitat in Rocky Mountain National Park. Moose presence has been increasing annually on both the east and west sides of the park, with recent reports showing animals observed in every major drainage in the park.
As part of this research, National Park Service staff are collaring up to 40 moose throughout the park. Seven animals were collared on the west side of the park last year and staff will begin collaring moose on the east side of the park this year as well. This research project will occur for the next five years, through 2022.
Information on moose population size, population growth rate, and carrying capacity as well as habitat use will be gathered from this research. Moose have not been previously GPS collared in the park, and affixing collars will assist greatly in collecting this important information.
Moose will also be monitored for chronic wasting disease (CWD) and baseline health metrics will be collected, which will allow biologists to better understand the overall health of the park’s moose population.
Since 2008, Rocky Mountain National Park’s Elk and Vegetation Management Plan has been undergoing efforts to reestablish the natural range of variation to the elk population as well as aspen and willow communities, which have been impacted by excessive browse for decades.
During the course of executing this adaptive management plan, new challenges have emerged, including a noticeably growing and expanding moose population in the park. Moose are wetland specialists, and can consume significant amounts of willow during the summer months. Aspen and willow are critical habitat for a wide and diverse array of wildlife species.
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