The moose study has already collared five cow moose near Vanderhoof.

The moose study has already collared five cow moose near Vanderhoof.

Collared moose on the loose

The provincial government has sent biologists out to capture and collar moose and learn why their growth rate is decreasing.

The provincial government has undertaken a five year project to send biologists out to capture and collar moose cows and study why their numbers are decreasing.

The moose numbers are declining in central British Columbia which a cause of concern for First Nations and licensed hunters alike as moose are primary big game sustenance.

There are eight different study areas one of which is located south of Vanderhoof. Five moose from the local area have already been captured and 135 have been collared in total.

The moose are brought down by dart from a helicopter and then measurements are made as well as every kind of sample that can be taken from an animal. Then a radio collar is attached and the moose is tracked for the next five years in order to determine causes of death.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources has a few guesses as to why the growth rate of the moose population is being reduced but it will take three more years before the study is finished and any conclusions released.

Right now they believe that mountain pine beetle growth and salvage logging have made it easier for hunters and predators to kill moose but it could be a combination of disease, parasites and nutrition as well.

The eight study areas differ in the amount of pine beetle and associated salvage logging in order to determine the extent to which those are factors in the decline.

We catch only in winter, so after March 31 this year no more capture can occur until December 2014,” said biologist Doug Heard via email. “We hope hunters will not see the black collars and shoot them as they otherwise would, then we can measure hunter kill rates.”

The ministry only asks that hunters phone in and report the kill, it is not illegal to harvest a collared moose. They ask that hunters phone in before eating since the meat may not be edible due to the immobilization drugs used for capture.