Montana moose hunters help state track population


Montana Moose
Photo credit: Shutterstock

With moose season underway, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) is busy collecting hunter data through surveys and harvest information to study the steady decline in Montana’s moose population. MFWP has been gathering this data for the past four years as part of a ten-year study, which began in 2013, aimed at monitoring moose within the western portion of the state and determining ways to keep the population stable.


hunter survey results from 2017 report
Photo credit: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

According to the Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation), hunter data is “compared to data gathered from aerial surveys over the same land area” by MFWP biologists. This data is used as a contrast to other data gathered through GPS collars to find out if moose are, in fact, declining like many hypothesize. So far, 2017 results have discovered that in two of the study areas, the population is actually stable to rising; however, in a third area, it is actually declining. MFWP is basing this information on adult female survival rates linked to those animals outfitted with GPS collars. As of Aug. 1, 2017, 81 cow moose are collared and being monitored in the Cabinet Mountains, Big Hole Valley and Rocky Mountain Front, SCI Foundation reports. Big Hole Valley is the area where survival rates are not as high.  

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Additionally, SCI Foundation reports that general pregnancy rates for moose within the study area are below the national average of 84.2% and calf survival is only 89% in Big Hole Valley, 87% in the Rocky Mountain Front and 73% in the Cabinet-Fisher area.

observed fecundity from 2017 report
Photo credit: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

Moose hunters play a vital role in MFWP’s research and the continuation of moose hunting within the state. In fact, hunting opportunities have increased by 27% in the western range thanks to this research and monitoring. Those who draw a state moose license can provide important information to biologists in charge of this project. Researchers can learn about moose nutrition, disease rates and the rutting season through participating hunters that allow them to take blood samples from harvested moose, measure rump fat levels and inform them of what days they were hunting.


number of moose sightings from 2017 report
Photo credit: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks
number of moose permits from 2017 report g
Photo credit: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks


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