Diet composition and variation in winter of supplementarily fed moose
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Supplementary feeding of ungulates during winter is a common practice in Europe and North America. Amongst species that are fed with a diversionary purpose is the moose Alces alces. Winter supplementary feeding of moose has been practiced for over 20 years in Hedmark County, Norway. However, the goal of diverting moose from young pine stands remains questionable as there is still substantial browsing around the feeding stations. Little is known of the composition of browse species and the relative amounts eaten by the moose using feeding stations. Using microhistological technique, I identified the different plant species in the faeces of moose using feeding stations. I also investigated the ratio of browse to silage faecal fragments, the variation in diet composition through the winter and how diet composition related to feeding station use. I collected a total of 51 faecal samples around feeding stations between January and March 2011 and 17 from GPS collared moose in March 2010. Data were treated using logistic regression with a quasibinomial error structure. The results in this study indicate that moose using feeding stations still browse on natural forage and they have a different diet composition from moose not using feeding stations Of the 13 plant species identified in the faecal samples, spruce and pine were the dominant natural forage, followed by bilberry. There was no significant difference in browse to silage ratio between the months. However, pine and spruce consumption were affected by month with pine decreasing through the winter due to depletion. There was a strong negative correlation between pine and silage and a weak positive but significant correlation between pine and spruce as well as pine and birch. Feeding stations were strategically put in spruce dense areas with the notion that it is a species avoided by moose which is however contrary in this study, especially in areas with long feeding history, I recommend the forest managers to redress the costs and benefits of using supplementary winter feeding to divert moose from commercially important browse species.
Master in applied ecology. Evenstad 2013