The moose research project in Jamésie continues!
For the third consecutive year, a team from the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) – Chibougamau office, under the supervision of the biologist Vincent Brodeur, is continuing the project in Jamésie aimed at better understanding the behavior of moose in the forest based on the specific terms of the Paix des braves. The veterinarians of the CWHC – Québec have been invited to participate in the project for the past three winters, in order to supervise the anesthesia and carry out a health examination on the animals. This year 2020, the field team included the veterinarian Dr. Marion Jalenques, the MFFP technicians Alexandre Paiement, Stéphane Rivard and Karen Savard, and the helicopter pilot Michaël Vaugeois.
Flying over the managed forest in the helicopter, the team searches for female moose suited to have a radio collar on. The animals are then anesthetized using a hypodermic dart fired from the helicopter. The anesthetic protocol used is a combination of several chemicals (butorphanol, azaperone and medetomidine), which has been shown to be effective and safe for the immobilization of several wild ruminants, in particular the moose anesthetized for this same project in January 2018 and 2019. This combination is a very good alternative to ultrapotent opioids, which are more dangerous to handle. It offers a relatively rapid induction and can be partially reversed (administration of an antidote) at the end of the procedure for a relatively rapid recovery with few sedative effects after waking up.
Each anesthetized moose is equipped with a transmitter collar or a camera collar with an automated release mechanism that will fall off after 21 months. Camera collars make it possible to improve each location with a short video, mainly allowing the validation of ecoforestry cards. Ear tags are used to identify the animal and to inform hunters that they must contact the MFFP staff before consuming an animal that has been anesthetized. The animal’s coat is then inspected to assess the level of infestation by the winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) and some feces is also collected for hormonal analysis (pregnancy diagnosis). Throughout the procedure, anesthesia monitoring is performed by the veterinarian and oxygen supplementation is provided via a nasal canula.
As in the previous years, the female moose examined appeared to be in good physical condition and were often followed by a calf. The animals had little or were not infested with the winter tick and the alopecic lesions that could be caused by this parasite were minimal. However, the distribution of this parasite is progressing north and the severity of infection could potentially increase, and possibly also infest forest caribou populations. Therefore, it is important to continue to monitor the progression of this parasite and its effects on moose populations. Tracking animals with radio collars will help to learn more about the ecology and behavior of these large mammals in the boreal forest and improve logging practices to further benefit populations of this large game species.
CWHC – Quebec