Abundance indices suggested that the moose Alces alces population in northern New Hampshire was stable despite favourable habitat and conservative harvest. Causes and rates of mortality were unknown because moose reproduction and survival was unstudied in the region. Our study was designed to investigate the dynamics of the regional population in 2002-2005. A total of 92 moose (33 cows and 59 calves) were captured and fitted with radio-collars (VHF = 83, GPS = 9). Parturition ranged from 8 May to 13 July (median = 19 May) with 78% of births occurring during 13-27 May. Calving rate of yearlings and adults (> 2 years old) averaged 30 and 85%, respectively; twinning rate was 11%. Analysis of reproductive data from harvested cows (1988-2004) indicated that the average weight of adult cows increased but their corpora lutea count declined from ∼ 1.4 to 1.2/cow. Both ovulation rate and average weight of yearling cows declined about 25 and 4%, respectively. There were 39 mortalities (49% calves) with winterkill/parasite (41%), vehicle collision (26%) and hunting (18%) as the leading causes. Major sources of mortality of radio-marked cows were human-related; survival was 0.87. Annual calf survival was 0.45. Unmarked calf (0-2 months of age) survival was 0.71 with 76% of mortality in the first month of life. Radio-marked calves (∼ 7-12 months of age) had a survival rate of 0.67; 74% of the mortality was winterkill/parasite related. Calf mortality was concentrated (88%) in late winter-early spring. The unseasonably warm and snowless fall in 2001 probably favoured high tick transmission and increased tick loads on moose that resulted in high calf mortality (0.51) and measurable cow mortality (10%) in mild winter-spring 2002. Documentation of substantial tick-related mortality of radio-marked moose calves was unique to this study. The stability of the moose population probably reflects the variation in annual recruitment and lower fecundity of yearling cows associated with heavy infestations and epizootics of winter tick. Given that fertility, calving rate and body condition of adult cows, and summer calf survival are annually high, the population should recover from tick epizootics that periodically inhibit population growth.
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Vol. 16 • No. 2