BC’s provincial government has just released its Moose Tracker app, which is aimed at collecting data on moose populations so as to help with conservation efforts.
Available through iTunes, the app allows users to upload information on moose sightings including location and sex of animals spotted in the wild.
“The data will the help the province monitor moose populations by alerting staff to emerging issues,” said Steve Thomson, forests minister.
The app is another example of “citizen science” where research groups are taking advantage of the prevalence of mobile technologies to help gather data on species of concern such as the monarch butterfly and the bumble bee – both of whom have been subjects this year of citizen-led population counts across the country.
The BC government hopes hunters in the province will make use of the Moose Tracker, developed in consultation with the BC Wildlife Federation and with support from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
“We’re proud to have played a role in making this app a reality,” says Jim Glacier, president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation. “It provides an innovative approach to moose inventory and gives the public across the province an important role in collecting and reporting better information to manage this species.”
With moose numbers dropping across the province, the government is seeking as much information as it can get to help address the issue, currently mounting a five-year research project on moose health, begun in 2013 and concluding in 2018, in hopes of getting to the bottom of the problem. One potential contributor to thinning populations seems to be an increase in winter tick and brain worm parasites, both which can prove deadly to moose.
Afflicting more than 60 per cent of BC moose according to a recent study -which also involved citizen reporting – winter ticks suck blood from moose, weakening the animal and causing it to take time away from feeding to groom themselves in attempt at removing the parasites. Experts believe that milder winters may be playing a role, as ticks populations grow in warmer weather. “We suspect with climate change we may be finding ticks in places that we haven’t found them before,” says Michael Bridger of BC Forests, Land and Natural Resources. “And the severity of the infestations may be increasing as well.”
The noticeable decline in moose populations is creating an imbalance between predator and prey in some regions, according to hunter and Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club president Rick Hoar, who says that local cattle ranchers are seeing more attacks on their livestock. “Rod and Gun Club members are saying moose are almost invisible,” says Hoar in conversation with the Invermere Valley Echo. “(Moose) are in a tough spot. It’s on the lips of people right across the province.”
Moose populations are declining in many regions of North America. According to wildlife biologist Seth Moore of the Grand Portage Trust Lands in Minnesota, an international health monitoring program needs to be established to better understand the problem. “The first year of life is the toughest for calves,” Moore said in a 2015 CBC documentary. “They are easy prey for wolves and bears, and many succumb to diseases and other health issues.”