In February, a group of citizen scientists in Jackson trudged out in search of moose and discovered they were much easier to find than most years. The 83 volunteers counted 100 more moose than they did last year during the same “Moose Day” count. That’s good news since the Jackson moose herd has been struggling in recent decades, according to Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife biologist Aly Courtemanch.
“It seems to be a combination of habitat degradation, predation from wolves and grizzly bears, as well as climate change and warming temperatures that have brought a lot of new diseases that we haven’t seen that are now affecting moose, like winter ticks,” Courtemanch said.
She said it’s also good news because this year’s deep snow has made survival hard for smaller wildlife like pronghorn and deer.
“Moose being larger bodied and longer legs, they can move through deep snow a lot easier and they’re able to withstand those colder temperatures a lot easier than a lot of our smaller ungulates that struggle through deep snow and expend a lot of energy trying to move around.”
Courtemanch said all the deep snow actually helped volunteers see the moose better.
“Moose distribution has shifted quite a bit due to the deep snow,” she said. “Moose are congregated into the valley and into river corridors, and so they are very visible with the helicopter and also very visible on private lands. So that enabled us to get a really good count on the herd since moose are so easily seen right now.”
She said volunteers counted 346 moose this winter compared to only 231 last year. And she said there was a better ratio of calves to cows than in the past, too, with 47 calves for every 100 cows. Courtemanch said the goal is to eventually count 800 moose in the Jackson herd.