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Alces americanus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA CERVIDAE

Scientific Name: Alces americanus
Species Authority: (Clinton, 1822)
Common Name(s):
English Moose, Siberian Elk
Synonym(s):
Alces alces (Milne-Edwards, 1867) subspecies cameloides
Taxonomic Notes: Although Wilson and Reeder (2005) recognized Eurasian Elk (Alces alces) and Moose (Alces americanus) as distinct species, there is still some debate surrounding whether Moose is a true species or subspecies. Groves and Grubb (1987) called them "semi-species". Boeskorov (1997) proposed that the chromosomal races of Alces alces were different species, however, Bowyer et al. (2000) cautioned that chromosome numbers may be a poor designator of species among large mammals. Based on cited sources that documented differences between Eurasian Elk and Moose, Geist (1998) recommended separation at the subspecies level (i.e., Alces alces alces Linneaus, 1758 and Alces alces americanus Clinton, 1822). There is a broad zone of hybridization between the two forms in central Siberia and northern Outer Mongolia (Geist 1998). Genetic analyses have generally supported distinguishing the two subspecies (Hundertmark et al. 2002, Udina et al. 2002), but further research is needed before a consensus would support species-level classification.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Geist, V., Ferguson, M. & Rachlow, J.
Reviewer(s): Black, P., González, S. (Deer Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
This specie is listed as Least Concern as the species is still very widespread and extremely abundant despite fairly intense hunting pressures in parts of its range. It is expanding its range in places and is tolerant of secondary habitat.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Alaska and Canada south through the Rocky Mountains, northern Great Lakes, and New England; Russia, east of the Yenisei River, east to Anadyr region (eastern Siberia) and south to northern Mongolia and northern China; introduced but now extirpated in New Zealand (Nugent et al. 2001; Boyeskorov 1999; Grubb, in Wilson and Reeder 2005). The species is estimated to have arrived in North America from Asia about 11,000-14,000 years ago, shortly before flooding of the Bering land bridge (Hundertmark et al. 2003). Moose range has decreased over the past 100 years in the southern boreal forest regions in the eastern provinces of Canada (e.g., Beazley et al. 2006), but has expanded in other areas. In recent decades, moose have expanded their range westward into the coastal temperate rainforests of British Columbia and some coastal islands (Darimont et al. 2005). These changes have been due to habitat changes caused by humans in boreal and rainforest ecosystems.
Countries:
Native:
Canada; China; Mongolia; Russian Federation; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is extremely rare and of limited distribution in China, but common in Siberia and North America (Piao et al. 1995; Sheng and Ohtaishi 1993; Yu et al. 1993). In 2003, the species was declared endangered in Nova Scotia, Canada (Beazley et al. 2006). Populations have expanded and increased in western British Colombia since the mid-1900s (Darimont et al. 2005). Population densities average 0.1-1.1 animals per square kilometer, although local densities may be higher.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species prefers mosaic of second-growth boreal forest, openings, swamps, lakes, wetlands. Requires water bodies for foraging and hardwood-conifer forests for winter cover. Avoids hot summer conditions by utilizing dense shade or bodies of water. Mineral licks may be important sodium source, used in early summer in Canada and Alaska. It feeds on vegetative parts of various broadleaf trees, preferring birch, ashes and willow in the spring and summer and the twigs of these species as well as of fir, alpine, and juniper in the autumn and winter. It also eats shrubs, such as blueberry and heather, dwarf shrubs, herbs, and aquatic plants. Moose can be a pest of agriculture and forestry in at least parts of its range (Ma Yiqing pers. comm.). In the search for food, some populations migrate during the year - covering up to 180 km (110 miles) in North America and 300 km (180 miles) in Asia. Whether sedentary or migratory, moose utilize specific home ranges, varying in size from 3.6 to >259 km² (Huntermark 1997).

They may become sexually mature after one year (Schwartz 1997), and the maximum life span is about 20 years (Peterson 1977). The moose is active throughout the day and night, although there are peaks at dawn and especially at dusk. Depending on habitat, home range may be up to 20 or 30 km² (Lawson and Rodgers 1997). Populations cohabiting ecosystems with predators, like wolves (Canis lupus) and bears (Ursus spp.) usually reach densities of
Moose populations can be limited or regulated by complex interactions of ecological factors that vary from population to population, or ecosystem to ecosystem. Winter weather (snow accumulation) may strongly affect populations, even more so than wolf density (Mech et al. 1987); however, Messier (1991) found that competition for food, but not wolf predation and snow, had a regulatory impact on moose. Van Ballenberghie and Ballard (1994) found that in some naturally regulated ecosystems, predation by bears and wolves often is limiting and may be regulating under certain conditions. Messier (1994) developed for population models of moose-wolf interactions. Under favourable conditions, moose populations are capable of large annual increases (20-25%) in population size; large populations may degrade habitat. In the presence of relatively few predators, Albright and Keith (1987) documented high calf-survival despite poor physical conditions during winter in a study of population dynamics of introduced populations in Newfoundland.

See Nudds (1990) for discussion of relation between white-tailed deer, moose, and meningeal (brain) worms. Brain worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) may limit moose populations in areas where white-tailed deer are common (Nudds 1990). Deer are not negatively impacted by the brain worm, the larval stage of which is passed in deer faeces. Snails, often inadvertently ingested by moose feeding on vegetation, are the intermediate host for the worm. Deer, through worm-mediated impacts, commonly are believed to exclude moose and caribou from areas where deer occur; however, an analysis by Schmitz and Nudds (1994) concluded that moose may be able to coexist with deer, albeit at lower densities, even in the absence of habitat refuges from the disease. Whitlaw and Lankester (1994) found that the evidence that brain worm has caused moose declines is weak. Moose are also severely impacted by another parasite of white-tailed deer, the winter tick (Samuel et al. 2000).

Where there is no human, wolf or bear predation, moose may alter the structure and dynamics of boreal forest ecosystems. At Isle Royale, Michigan, moose browsing prevented saplings of preferred species from growing into the tree canopy, resulting in a forest with fewer canopy trees and a well-developed understory of shrubs and herbs; also, browsing may have caused an increase in spruce and a decrease in balsam fir (McInnes et al. 1992).

Ferguson et al. (2000) reviewed the dynamics of 15 Canadian moose populations, and reconciled some major factors that influence various populations differently. Populations that live in greater forest cover (i.e., greater primary productivity) and with greater natural predation had more predictable population trends from year to year. Populations living in areas with low primary productivity and with low natural predation experienced more density-independent population change with lower predictability in population size.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to the status of moose populations are primarily human-caused habitat alteration. Forestry and agricultural practices in the southern range of the species have caused massive and extensive reductions in the extent of boreal forest in southern Canada. In these areas white-tailed deer have occupied modified boreal forests that are increasingly open agricultural fields and extensive deciduous forests. With the deer has come the brain worm which is a significant mortality factor for moose.

In Nova Scotia, Canada, where moose have been declared endangered, recovery issues have been listed as: genetic structure, health, illegal harvest, habitat suitability and fragmentation, and potential climate-related habitat change (Beazley et al. 2006).

Human-caused habitat change is also the major force causing westward expansion into non-typical habitats (i.e., rainforest ecosystems) in British Columbia. The expansion occurred concomitant with extensive logging in the Coastal Mountain Range. This has led to concerns about the future of native deer (Odocoileus hemionus) with the introduction of this new alternate prey species for predators and the potential introduction of diseases (Diarmont et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species occurs in numerous protected areas across its range. Human harvesting is generally managed in a sustainable manner throughout most of the sub-species range. The major conservation concern is extensive regional and landscape scale habitat change. Although Ferguson et al. (2000) did not analyze populations considered to be at risk, they identified populations occurring in areas with low primary productivity and low natural predation show the least persistence and require the greatest conservation effort. Both low primary productivity and predation usually occur where humans have caused extensive habitat disturbance. This species thrives where protected from overkill by humans or predators.

Citation: Geist, V., Ferguson, M. & Rachlow, J. 2008. Alces americanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 September 2014.
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