U of S moose research continues

Rural residents who spot a low-flying helicopter south of Saskatoon, including areas near Dundurn, Outlook, Tuxford, Watrous and Chamberlain, need not be alarmed – it's just a University of Saskatchewan research team catching moose with a net gun.

The aerial adventure is part of the second year of a program to find out more about farmland moose. The researchers are looking at key habitats, what the moose are eating, where they are moving, and particularly when and where they cross roads and highways.

"The study follows the hourly movements of 50 moose using satellite-based collars over a four-year period," said Ryan Brook, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and moose project director.

Brook and his colleagues aim to find out more about moose as they have gradually expanded their range southward within the province over the past 30 years. Their work is supported by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.

"Currently, there is a lack of research pertaining to moose ecology in agricultural landscapes," said Saskatchewan Minister of Environment Ken Cheveldayoff. "This research will improve our knowledge of farmland moose ecology and the findings will be important as we finalize a moose management strategy for southern Saskatchewan."

Last year, moose were captured in February and March. Collaring will resume again this year in early March. A professional helicopter wildlife capture crew uses a special gun that shoots a net over the animal, a proven safe method that works well for capturing large animals.

Captures follow a detailed protocol developed in consultation with the Saskatchewan government and approved by the U of S that follows the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. The protocol is aimed at minimizing risk to moose and ensuring human safety.

When a moose is netted, the capture team attaches a satellite collar around the animal's neck. The collar contains a release that causes it to fall off after two years to be retrieved and reused. The team also collects blood, hair and stool samples to assess animal health. No drugs are used on the animals, enabling a quick and safe release.

"It is our intention to keep disturbance and noise levels to a minimum during the capture and to leave the property we have landed on as soon as possible," Brook said. "Each capture takes about 30 minutes at most from beginning to end."

This study will also address issues related to property damage caused by moose moving throughout the region.

"We would like to thank all landowners and the public for their support and participation in this project," Brook said.

Visit the U of S Moose Project's Facebook page for regular updates and information.
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