Low snow levels help Anchorage moose population thrive
The lack of snow this winter has meant easier travel for cars and pedestrians, but the moose are also having an easier time getting around.
Standing up to 6 feet tall with hoofs that double as snow shoes, moose are designed for the snow. But even for them, too much snow can it make it hard to get food in the winter.
“Every winter they are pushed down out of the Ship Creek Valley and the higher elevations, more into the lower areas,” said Dave Battle, Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, referring to the city’s moose population.
But this year, that isn’t a concern, at least near Anchorage.
It’s been 36 days since we’ve seen measurable snow in Anchorage and we’ve tied the record for the number of consecutive snowless days.
While that’s not ideal for many, it’s looking good for the moose.
“I would suspect that it’ll probably be a pretty good winter,” said Battle. “We probably won’t have too much winter kill.”
Less snow means more food, more strength, better survival and often more reproduction.
“They have a lot more to eat, especially little low branch twigs that they really love to eat on during the winter, said Dana DeBernardi,” Director of Moose Mamas. “If they’re covered with snow, we see lot of starvation with the moose. So two low snow years in a row, it’s very exciting. I think it’s really going to grow after these two years.”
All indications show this winter will help the moose populations in this area, but it’s hard to know for sure until they are counted.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game can do that with aerial surveys, but to see the moose, they need more snow.
“We need usually 10 or 12 inches to make sure we have enough snow cover up under the spruce trees where moose like to get in and lay, said Battle. “This year we were not able to get that before the moose started dropping their antlers.”
The last time there was enough snow to do an aerial moose survey was in 2013.
“Without doing surveys, without getting out there, right now we might not have the complete picture, said Battle. “We’re hoping to be able to do surveys next year and see how this affected our population.”
We’ll have to wait until this spring, and perhaps even next winter before we really know how this winter is impacting the moose population.
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