• Ecological And Social Influences On Population Dynamics And Genetics Of Moose In Alaska

      Schmidt, Jennifer Irene; McCracken, Kevin (2007)
      I examined social and ecological influences on moose (Alces alces gigas) in Alaska, USA, with respect to hunting success, antler size, and population genetic structure. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) is frequently used to assess hunter success; thus I hypothesized that landscape characteristics and moose density would affect success. Using hunter harvest tickets returned to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, I modeled CPUE with Weibull regression. I determined success is significantly predicted by hunt location, mode of transportation, hunting regulations, use of commercial services (i.e., guides), year, road density, hunter-to-moose ratio, moose density, and hunter residency status. Antler size is an important factor for hunters and for mating potential in male moose. I hypothesized that moose density, habitat, and use of guides would correlate with antler size of harvested moose. I also predicted that guides would harvest moose with larger antlers and avoid areas where the hunter-to-moose ratio is high compared to nonguided hunters. Results indicated that antler size decreases with increases in moose density and harvest intensity due to density-dependent processes and a younger age structure in heavily harvested areas. Guided hunts tended to harvest larger antlered bulls and avoided areas of high hunter-to-moose ratios. In addition to age and nutrition, genetics influences antler size. I used eight microsatellites and five sample areas to resolve whether population structure exists among moose in Alaska. I hypothesized that population structure does exist given the intense harvest rates, polygynous mating style of moose, and heterogeneous landscape present in Alaska. Dispersal and gene flow between populations was proposed to occur via isolation-by-distance (IBD) with a positive linear relationship between geographic and genetic distance. Results indicated weak but significant population structure for moose in Alaska, and IBD was supported. Pairwise comparisons between populations indicated that moose have established separate populations except for between Tanana Flats and Koyukuk and Koyukuk and the Seward Peninsula. Lastly, I hypothesized incorporation of landscape characteristics and subsequent least-cost path would strengthen the significance of IBD. With an additional population, Tetlin, the significance of IBD as a mechanism for dispersal/gene flow for moose in Alaska was improved.