Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
TOGIAK: Surveys indicate growing and expanding moose population.
Alaska Region, April 1, 2011
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This is an aerial photo taken on Togiak Refuge in March and shows a close up of a moose group that an observer would be counting.
This is an aerial photo taken on Togiak Refuge in March and shows a close up of a moose group that an observer would be counting. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Stacey Lowe, Wildlife Biologist, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

Biologists from Togiak National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently completed the 2011 winter moose population survey.  Although scheduled to occur annually, weather conditions in southwestern Alaska often inhibit completion.  Also, the size of the refuge (at 4.7 million acres, the fourth largest in the National Wildlife Refuge System) makes completing the survey challenging.  However, the snow cover and flying conditions were ideal this year, and for only the second time in Togiak refuge’s history, the entire refuge was surveyed during the same winter.

Annual moose surveys allow managers to monitor the current size of the population as well as document long term trends to make management decisions. Surveys are conducted from fixed-wing aircraft, each with a pilot and one observer.  Pilots fly aircraft fly over sample units (river drainages and tributaries) and observers count moose.  During surveys, most bulls have already shed their antlers so male/female information is not determined. 

Surveys were conducted from March 1-14th, and a total of 1,626 moose were observed during 50.3 survey hours.  The moose population increased by 300 compared to 2006 when the last complete survey was conducted. 

In addition to population growth, refuge biologists have observed a range expansion of the Togiak refuge moose population over the past 20 years.  This expansion is a result of favorable habitat conditions and the cooperative management efforts among several villages, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the Togiak Refuge (see FWJ Dec 2008 – TOGIAK: A tale of three villages).   Approximately 30% of the suitable moose habitat on the refuge is still unoccupied by moose, so refuge biologists anticipate continued range expansion and population growth.

Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov
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