I received a letter/request for hair from a moose I shot years ago for a study . My Question is 2-fold . Will I ever get a report on the report ?, and is this study to try and show that wolfs are not the cause for the disappearance of the moose from central Idaho ? Thank you , Bruce Chaffee .
Thanks for the questions. Question 1) will I ever get the report? We will make an interim and final report available online on our website when they are completed. It takes a long time to organize the hair, send to UI lab for analysis, anlyze the data, and write a final report. However, we are sincerely thankful for all the assistance people have provided in sending the hair to us. We have had much greater response than anticipated which will increase our abilities to understand historical conditions of moose.
Question 2. Is this a study to show that wolves are not the cause of moose disappearance in central Idaho? The idea of science and research is to look at causes based on data and the scientific method, not what we think is going on based on a hunch. We have lots of ideas of what is going on with moose but we have little research to prove anything. This hair research will not prove anything but will give us a needed piece of the puzzle and provide us a glimpse into what micronutrient condition the moose were in when they were increasing in numbers compared to condition they were in when declining. Catttle producers have known forever that certain micronutrients are critical in pregnancy and calf survival and health, and the ability of animals to put on weigh, avoid diseases and succumbing to parasites, and thrive. That is why they supplement with mineral blocks. We have little research on what micronutrient levels are necessary for health, pregancy, and calf survival in our wild ungulate populations. We assume they are getting what they need in the wild. However, their bodies do crave salt and minerals and when they are available, they use them.
We have areas of Idaho where moose are declining and there are no wolves. We have moose and elk increasing where there are wolves. And we have moose and elk decreasing where there are wolves. If I were to put it in human terms, if you are weak from disease or sick from an infection, you would be much easier for someone to knock off your feet and beat up right? Same with predators taking down prey. If a moose is weak from malnutrition, has a few parasites or diseases, it cannot defend itself as well from a wolf or predator and will become easier prey when if it was healthy it would have survived. All that said, we believe wolves can and do have impacts in some areas on some ungulate populations. Thanks to 100s of radio collars on elk this year we discovered that twice as many elk are killed by cougars as are killed by wolves, and as many are dying of malnutrition as are being killed by wolves. The wolf question is important but claiming every decline is caused by wolves would be denying all the fluctuations in ungulate populations we had prior to having wolves or where we don't have wolves, and missing on the root causes of many declines. We want to look at the entire picture including wolves but not just the impacts wolves have.
Also, we are interested in looking at the history of minerals in vegetation and soils that resulted from the Mt. Saint Helens eruption in 1980. We are curious to see if the influx of minerals in the ash plume may have benefited ungulate populations during the 1980s and 1990s. We might be able to see differences in these minerals over time and within the plume areas. We are trying to keep an open mind and put more information together. We are assuming and history shows that there are a multiple of causes that regulate and limit populations.
I hope that answers your questions.