Adirondack Moose Research Project Update
M.S. Student, SUNY-ESF
August 28, 2017
Despite the 6.1 million acre Adirondack Park (AP) providing a super-abundance of forest habitat compared to Vermont and New Hampshire, moose numbers in the park remain only a fraction of the populations supported in neighboring states. A plausible and yet little considered explanation for the consistently low moose numbers is resource limitation due to a lack of abundant and spatially-concentrated food patches (browse) owing to the rarity of clearcut logging activities in the park. This research will quantify browse quantity and quality within the AP and estimate a nutritionally-based carrying capacity for moose. To do so, I will create a map of the total browse (shrubs and regenerating trees) available to moose, adjust availability based on patterns of moose diet selection, quantify the nutritive value (digestible energy and protein) of selected browse, and estimate the minimum number of adult female moose (pregnant or lactating) that can be supported by the available browse.
Since the AWCF awarded a grant for this research in early September, 2016, 2 field seasons have been completed; one in winter of 2016/17 and one in summer 2017. Multiple types of data were collected in both of these field seasons, including biomass, browse selection, and nutrition data. In winter 2016/17, forty-four browse selection surveys were conducted. These surveys indicated that red maple and balsam fir are highly important diet items for moose in this region. Red maple was found to be the most utilized and one of the most selected species present in the diet. Additionally, browse selection data collected in summer 2017 (and pooled with data from summer 2016) showed that red maple was also a critical component of the moose summer diet. Other important species included northern wild raisin, paper birch and yellow birch.
Between both summer and winter a total of 17 species were identified as principle browse species. Biomass and nutrition data were collected for these 17 species.
The biomass estimation process consists of 3 steps. First, we must determine a relationship between plant size and available biomass. Second, we use those relationships to estimate the biomass available on sampling plots scattered throughout the study area. Lastly, once the plot-level biomass is estimated, we will model landscape biomass availability across the park using site covariates at the plots such as aspect, elevation, slope and cover type. In summer 2016 and 2017, over 200 samples were collected for the principle browse species to determine the relationship between size and weight. Modelling for this relationship is in progress. Plant size and site covariates were measured at 114 independent locations throughout the study area for which plot-level biomass will be predicted.
Nutritional value of the principle browse species must also be determined. We collected nutrition samples from each species during summer 2016 and winter 2016/17. A total of 208 samples were collected, which were condensed into 93 composite samples and sent to Washington State University for analysis. Results are anticipated to be returned in late September.
All field work has been completed for this research. In the coming months, we will continue to refine models relating plant size to biomass and site biomass to site covariates. This data, combined with the nutritional information and further habitat selection analyses utilizing GPS collared moose, will result in an estimate of how many moose can be supported by the Adirondack Park.
Wood Turtle Progress Report 2017
Turtle surveys started May 1 st at Fortin Park, the disturbed site. Over twenty three wood turtles have been found to date, thirteen wood turtles have been tagged with transmitters. There are ten adult females and three adult males being tracked. May – June the turtles were tracked every other day, June – July turtles were tracked every day to find nesting ground, July – September the turtles will be tracked every other day, the nests found will be checked daily to monitor hatchlings. Through radio tracking, a popular nesting ground was found. Three nests sites have exclosures over them to protect the hatchlings from predators. There were more turtle nests in this area, but unfortunately a flash flood wiped most of them out. Notch codes provided by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have been carved into the turtle shells. Blood has been taken from the caudal vein in the tail to get DNA from the adult turtles. Next field season, artificial nest sites will be placed by the popular nesting ground away from the stream to protect the nests from flooding. Duck blinds will also be used to provide more discretion during nesting season.
The undisturbed site is being monitored by a biologist at Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area (WMA). With over a decade of wood turtle radio-tracking at Great Swamp, thirty have transmitters attached and are monitored yearly. Nests sites have been found and exclosures have been set up to prevent predators from eating the hatchlings
- Thirteen transmitters: $2,275
- PCR Master Mix Kit: $11
- Twelve Pack of Epoxy Gel: $ 44.52
- Electronic Scale: $ 105
- Batteries: $18.99
- Dremel: $20.59
- Dremel Accessory Kit: $13.99
- Nest Exclosure Material:
- Staple Gun: $20.69
- Hardware Cloth: $13.05
- Staples: $9.60