The moose population is decreasing and red listing of the moose is being discussed - but how is the moose really doing? That question will be investigated in more detail in a newly started research project at SLU. The project is a collaboration between SLU, the county administrations in northern Sweden, the Swedish Hunters' Association and the forest companies.
The moose population in the four northernmost counties has, according to SLU's calculations, decreased on average by a third, and in some places halved, since the new moose management strategy was introduced in 2012. This reduces the opportunities for moose hunting and many hunters are worried about the moose's future.
– The reduction is primarily a result of a deliberate lowering of the moose population through hunting, in an effort to reduce forest damage. The moose is not threatened, but it is not possible to shoot as many moose as it was in the past. Now is the time to focus on both quantity and quality in moose management, says wildlife researcher Fredrik Widemo, who leads the research project at SLU.
The project will be carried out in reference areas in the counties of Jämtland, Västernorrland, Västerbotten and Norrbotten, where SLU already studies how moose affect their habitat. These studies include how the moose move and how their browsing affects forest growth and biodiversity. Now the studies are to be expanded in order to reveal better how the moose in the area are doing.
– We will supplement the research that is already being carried out with studies of the moose population's age composition, reproduction, size, weight, energy resources and stress hormones. At the same time, we will conduct even more detailed studies of what the moose eat, says Fredrik Widemo.
The study is carried out in collaboration with the actors in moose management and local hunting teams, who submit samples from moose that have been killed to SLU. Together with the research data that is already collected, it should give a more comprehensive picture of the health status of the moose population.
– The results will provide new, important knowledge for moose management. It is needed as the moose occur in lower densities than before and the habitats are changing due to increasing numbers of other ungulates, a changed climate and changed land use, says Fredrik Widemo.
Project Moose Quality in the North
The project will run from 2023 to 2027 and is a collaboration between SLU, the county administrations in Norrbotten, Västerbotten, Jämtland and Västernorrland counties, the Swedish Association of Hunting and Wildlife Management, and the major forest companies in these counties.
The studies are carried out in a number of reference areas where SLU already conducts moose research. SLU cooperates with relevant hunting teams for the collection of samples from moose harvested in the relevant areas.