Moose Management Guidelines - July 1996
These interim management guidelines were developed by the Moose Management team from the Yukon Department of Renewable Resources. The management principles, concepts and assumptions outlined here represent the consensus of the team. The guidelines are intended to provide a framework for consistent Departmental input and responses to management plans, programs and regulation proposals. In addition, they should provide a common understanding amongst those involved in moose management decisions and serve as a focus for future discussions and refinement. These guidelines are not formal policy, but working guidelines which will be reviewed periodically and amended and updated based on new and additional information, including local and traditional knowledge and experience. The guidelines are provided for your information and use.
Comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.
Moose Management Team
Rick Ward (Wildlife Management, Chair)
Ecological and Social Principles, Concepts and Assumptions Underlying Moose Management
Abundance & Distribution
(1) Moose are the largest and one of the most widespread and commonly encountered large mammal species in the Yukon. They are also one of the most important members of natural communities and large predator-prey systems. Near natural levels of abundance are required if ecosystem biodiversity is to be maintained.
(2) Moose populations in Yukon are at naturally low densities (up to 400 moose for every 1000 km2) when compared to other systems. In general, densities in southern Yukon tend to be higher than those in the north (see attached map 1). In the south densities average between 150 and 250 moose for every 1000 km2 while in the north, the average density is between 100 and 150 moose for every 1000 km2.
(3) Unregulated access and human activity that leads to increased disturbance, hunting pressure, development and habitat loss is a significant management concern and may result in local moose population declines.
(4) Moose population abundance and trends are a result of how many adults die (adult mortality) and the number of calves that survive to be yearlings (recruitment).
(5) Recruitment levels are highly variable from year to year and area to area (ranging from 5 to 40 yearlings/100 cows). This depends upon changes in predation levels and environmental factors such as weather and habitat quality.
(6) Dependent on adult mortality, recruitment levels of 10-20 yearlings/100 adult moose are required to maintain stable populations in the Yukon.
(7) Most moose mortality is caused by predation, but other factors such as harvest, climate, forage and disease/parasites also affect mortality.
(8) In parts of Yukon, bears and wolves kill from half to nearly all calves that are born each year. Bear predation is most important in the first month of a calf's life, while wolf predation continues throughout the calf's first year.
(9) Predation by wolves is generally a more important source of adult moose mortality than predation by bears.
(10) In Yukon about 10 to 20 of every 100 adult moose die of natural causes (all sources of mortality other than harvest by humans) each year. On top of this 0 to 8 moose (average 2) out of every 100 adult moose are killed by hunters each year. For a population to be stable, the total mortality must be equal to recruitment. If recruitment is less than adult mortality, the population will decline. If recruitment is greater than adult mortality, the population will increase.
(11) Hunting mortality, when added to natural mortality, can initiate a decline in a moose population and keep the population at low levels for long periods.
(12) Hunting mortality becomes an increasingly important risk factor when moose are at low density.
(13) Predation mortality becomes increasingly significant as moose populations decline. This is because kill rates remain high until moose numbers are very low.
(14) Even at low overall abundance moose may remain relatively vulnerable to hunting predation and/or development. This is because moose tend to be concentrated seasonally as a result of social needs and in accordance with available habitat.
(15) In Yukon, the harvest of moose by humans is largely additive to other sources of mortality.
(16) The control of human activities including hunting and disturbance is the most important and practical moose management tool.
(17) The vulnerability of a moose population to over harvest by hunters can be reduced by limiting the harvest to bulls or to an identifiable sub group of bulls (for example; large, old bulls).
(18) Harvesting of any cow moose has a direct negative impact on reproductive capacity (the number of calves born) of a population.
(19) Most cows (greater than 90%) produce calves every year. Cows
without calves ("dry cows") are often those that have lost their
young and will reproduce again in subsequent years.
(20) The harvest of bull moose can indirectly affect reproduction and natural mortality rates of cow moose. The likelihood of successful reproduction can decline if the proportion of bulls drops below 30 bulls for every 100 cows because there are too few males to breed the females. Natural mortality rates on cows can increase when predators encounter few vulnerable bulls and increase their predation on cows.
(21) Maximum Sustainable Yield or Harvest (MSY) is a theoretical number that is determined biologically and will change from year to year depending on recruitment and mortality. Annual Allowable Harvest (A.A.H.) is a number based on management objectives. It is calculated over the medium term (3-5 year) based on management experience and population objectives. It will normally be less than MSY.
(22) The potential for hunting to initiate a population decline increases with harvest.
(23) Over harvest can initiate a population decline that will continue due to predation and other factors even in the absence of hunting.
(24) As a strategy in the management of moose populations, it is desirable to distribute harvest pressure over a broader area. This would reduce the likelihood of local over harvest.
(25) In principle, hunter access allows for the distribution of harvest and is thus a potential management tool. However, it is critical that access be regulated. For direct new access such as roads, effective mechanisms to control the harvest by all users (First Nations, residents and outfitters) are required.
(27) In the early 1980's high priority areas were identified around Yukon communities for regular monitoring of moose populations. The selection of these areas was based on historic harvest levels and development concerns.
(28) Assessments of moose abundance are primarily based on periodic census surveys. In areas that have not been censused, abundance is estimated based on local information, habitat availability, and densities in similar, adjacent areas. To date we have censused 21 areas at least once, for a total of approximately 15% of the Territory.
(29) At present funding levels, it is possible to census about 2 areas each year using our current survey technique.
(30) Harvest data, and local and traditional knowledge are used as supporting information for monitoring population abundance and trend. Moose populations at moderate risk should be censused every 5-10 years. Populations at high risk and intensively managed populations (those involving enhancement programs, special harvest restrictions etc.) should be censused every 3-5 years.
(31) Reliable and verifiable information on the annual moose harvest by all users is essential for effective management.
(32) Throughout much of Yukon, moose habitat is still relatively undisturbed by human activity. However, many of the most productive habitats are in demand for human uses that result in habitat loss.
(33) Generally, areas with a mosaic (variety) of habitat types are best for moose. The presence of habitat types containing adequate browse, cover, and mineral licks are all needed.
(34) Moose key habitats are areas used seasonally for critical life functions. The loss of these habitats will result in a population decline. These areas are mapped primarily from sources that provide locations of moose at key times of year. Examples of key habitats include: 1) winter range, such as forested river valley, which provide forage and shelter from deep snow, and 2) traditional calving.
(35) Disturbances such as fire, logging, and insects are important agents of forest renewal that may increase habitat diversity and abundance of forage for moose. However, these disturbances will not always benefit moose.
(36) Some land use activities can have significant negative impacts on moose populations by resulting in habitat loss. Individual land use activities may have a minimal impact, but the cumulative effects of many of these activities can be very significant.
(37) Moose populations in the Yukon are usually below carrying capacity of the habitat (the number of moose the land can support) but moose densities do vary with habitat quality and quantity.
(38) Opportunities to view and experience moose in the wild as part of intact ecosystems which include other community members such as wolves, bears and ravens are important.
(39) Wildlife viewing encompasses a range of activities such as photography, listening to wolves howl, viewing at managed sites or along transportation corridors, and incidental encounters while hiking or hunting.
(40) Hunting and wildlife viewing are generally incompatible activities. Hunting has a negative impact on wildlife viewing activities by reducing moose abundance in accessible areas and conditioning animals to avoid people.
(41) Moose are well suited to wildlife viewing programs because of their predictable and relatively sedentary nature.
(42) Areas managed for moose viewing need not be large but promotion of moose viewing requires that there be a reasonable expectation of observing moose.
(43) Disturbance associated with moose viewing activities can be significant and, therefore the activities must be managed.
(44) The preferred areas for viewing moose are those with relatively easy access (for example; road corridors, rivers, and lake shores) and having reasonable abundance of moose.
Management Decision Making Criteria and Approaches
(45) The identification of moose key habitat sites is a priority. The mapping of moose habitat throughout the territory is also required to increase our understanding of moose/habitat relationships.
(46) Minimizing the cumulative effects of land use development on moose habitat requires some form of management planning that incorporates consideration of land use activities, as well as assessment of individual projects.
(47) Moose habitat management will focus on the protection of key habitats and important habitats through development and implementation of land use guidelines, participating in the land use review process, and establishing protected areas.
(48) Habitat enhancement may be considered as a management tool for increasing moose habitat quality and quantity. These projects will be designed to increase our understanding of the effectiveness of habitat enhancement for increasing moose abundance.
(49) Moose habitat enhancement projects that involve the use of prescribed fire will be subject to the Wildfire Management and Prescribed Burning Policy.
(50) Conservation of moose populations, and their habitats, and the maintenance of ecosystem biodiversity is the overriding allocation principle.
(51) In selected areas along transportation corridors and adjacent to communities, the management priority will be for viewing activities.
(52) Opportunities for moose harvest are shared by all Yukoners.
(53) Harvest allocation priority will be given to First Nations as laid out in the First Nations Land Claim Agreements.
(54) In general, where harvest limits are established, resident hunters should be allocated 50 to 75% and outfitters 25 to 50% of the allowable harvest for non-First Nation harvesters.
(55) In specific cases where harvest limits are established and implemented for non-First Nation harvesters, higher priority should be given to resident hunters in accessible and/or high demand areas, while outfitters may be given a higher priority in more remote areas. Where continued business viability is a consideration and there are only a few moose allowed to be hunted, consideration may be given to allocating more of this allowable harvest to the outfitter.
(56) Allowable harvests will normally be established for moose populations within management units made up of groups of game management subzones. Management units will be based on biological and harvester considerations.
(57) Opportunities for viewing moose will be developed and promoted in selected areas throughout Yukon. When possible, areas that will provide viewing opportunities for a range of species will be selected.
(58) Potential sites for viewing of moose will be identified. Preferred sites are those that are accessible and provide a good expectation of seeing moose.
(59) In areas managed for viewing, a complete hunting closure for all species is the preferred option. A hunting closure for one or several species highlighted for viewing is the next preferred option.
(60) Guidelines will be developed to mitigate the impact of viewing activities on moose. Facilities may also be required in specific situations to minimize wildlife and habitat disturbance.
(61) Survey and other biological studies will be designed to assist the development of moose viewing opportunities.
(62) Allowable harvest rates for Yukon moose populations can range from 2 to 5%. The Annual Allowable Harvest (A.A.H.) for naturally regulated, relatively stable moose populations of average density is 3 to 4 percent. This is based on Yukon and Alaska management experience and case history analysis.
(63) The level selected will be based on an assessment of the following risk factors:
(64) In areas where the management objective is for a negligible or zero harvest a minimal harvest of less than 2% may be considered acceptable for cultural, social or economic purposes.
(65) For small isolated moose populations where habitat is limited, such as the North Slope drainages, the management objective will be for a negligible or zero harvest. Any harvest that is permitted should be closely regulated.
(66) Allowable harvest of over 5 % are considered temporary and associated with:
(67) Harvest management should focus on the direct control of moose harvest as much as possible without limiting recreation, cultural and economic opportunities provided by the hunting activity and without causing undue difficulty or inconvenience to hunters. (for example; parties of 2 or more people could hunt together but only harvest one moose).
(68) In situations where the management objective is for a very low harvest, alternative harvest management strategies (such as minimum antler size regulations) may be considered.