Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Natural Resources

First Advisor

Therese Donovan

Second Advisor

James Murdoch

Abstract

Moose (Alces alces) have experienced considerable declines along the periphery of their range in the northeastern United States. In Vermont, the population declined by approximately 44% from 2010 to 2017 despite minimal hunter harvest and adequate habitat. Populations in New Hampshire and Maine have shown similar declines, associated primarily with the impacts of winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus). However, uncertainty exists about the effects of environmental and other parasite related conditions on moose survival and reproduction. I examined patterns of moose survival and productivity among a radio-collared population (n = 127) in Vermont from 2017 to 2019. In terms of productivity, I estimated pregnancy rates, birth rates, and neonate daily survival (the probability that a newborn would survive to day 60). Across years, pregnancy rates were estimated at 67% (95% CI = 0.51 - 0.82). The average birth rate was 0.64 offspring per adult female per year, but varied as a function of age and year, where the probability of giving birth increased with cow age. Neonate daily survival was estimated with a logistic exposure analytical framework, and closely associated with days since birth. Survival to day 60 was estimated at 0.65 (95% CI = 0.44 to 0.79). Observed adult survival of collared individuals was 90% in 2017 (27 of 30), 84% in 2018 (38 of 45), and 86% in 2019 (38 of 44), and observed winter calf survival was 60% in 2017 (18 of 30), 50% in 2018 (15 of 30), and 37% in 2019 (11 of 30). Most mortalities occurred in March and April, when winter tick engorgement on moose peaked. Necropsy analyses indicated that winter tick infestation was the primary cause of mortality (91% of calves, 25% of adults), and 32% of all mortalities had evidence of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis). Known fates analyses of weekly calf survival (01 Jan – 18 May, n = 90) and monthly adult survival probability (Jan to Jan) confirmed that survival in both calves and adults was negatively related to winter ticks, and in the case of calves, a suite of other parasites, including lungworm (Dictyocaulus spp.). Results indicate that winter tick engorgement strongly impacts survival and is probably compounded by the presence of meningeal worm and other parasites. Compounding effects of winter ticks on adult females likely reduces productivity and neonate survival over time.

Language

en

Number of Pages

93 p.

Available for download on Saturday, April 09, 2022

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