Moose distribution and browsing close to a feeding station
Abstract: This thesis investigates moose distribution and browsing damages in an area where a feeding station with ensilage fodder was established. A frequently debated subject in the Scandinavian forestry sector is how to handle problems with browsing damages by large herbivores, mostly moose (Alces alces), in young forest stands. Today the dominant way to reduce the browsing impact is by regulating the moose population by hunting. Currently, many forest companies claim that there is too much browsing damage and want to reduce the moose population. On the contrary, voices are raised that the number of moose is too low and that they can not accept a further reduction of moose in Scandinavia. Supplemental feeding of moose has been suggested as an alternative way to satisfy the opposing views. Four feeding stations were established the late fall of 2006 in the river valley of Susendalen in Norway. In early springtime of 2006, before these feeding stations were established, we performed baseline surveys of moose (pellet counts) and of browsing on trees (counting of browsed twigs). The four investigated areas had a square shaped formation of 2 ' 2 km each. In the spring of 2007 the same plots were resurveyed. To evaluate the potential of moose management by using feeding stations we studied the difference in moose density and browsing damages the both investigated years. Overall, the results showed that there was a threefold, significant increase in the number of pellet groups compared to 2006. This indicates an aggregation of moose around the feeding stations. Within a radius of 900 meters there was a significant increase in the number of pellet groups the year after the feeding station was established. At a further distance, up to 1300 meters from the station, there was an indication of a slight increase in pellet groups. In addition, there was a significant increase in number of browsed twigs within a radius of 200 to 300 meters. The total numbers of all counted browsed twigs was slightly, but insignificantly, lower after the establishment of the feeding stations. More studies about the economical aspect of supplemental feeding aimed for moose are desirable, but the conclusion of this study is that supplemental feeding can reallocate moose to a wanted location and therefore can be an effective way to monitor browsing damages in the concerned area.
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