Age-specific mortality of large mammals follows a general pattern of high juvenile mortality followed by low adult mortality. I outline a method which models this change in mortality rate to estimate age of maturity in hunted moose Alces alces populations. Kill data indicate that first time reproducers suffer the highest mortality during the hunting season. Cohort analysis of hunter kill data was used to estimate age-specific female moose numbers and annual survival of cohorts over 18–26 years. Age at maturity was defined as age at the inflection point (highest mortality rate) of a third-order log-polynomial of annual survivorship curves. The inflection point demarcates the change in mortality rate between juvenile and adult life stages. Thus, the inflection point represents the greatest moose mortality rate during the hunting season and is likely associated with hunting mortality of inexperienced females accompanied by 6-month-old calves. I tested this method by estimating age of first reproduction (inflection point - 0.5 years) and juvenile mortality for 15 Canadian moose populations. Results indicate a wide range of age at maturity (1.7–3.0 years) and percent of juveniles that survive to this age (29–70%). Estimating age at maturity from survivorship curves provides the opportunity to test life-history theory.
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Vol. 8 • No. 1