Assessments of the condition of moose (Alces alces) may be particularly informative to understanding the dynamics of populations and other influential factors. During February–March 2003 to 2005, we assessed the nutritional condition of 79 moose (39 females, 40 males) in northeastern Minnesota by body condition scoring (BCSF, scale of 0–0); 67 of these by were assessed by ultrasonographic measurements of rump fat (Maxfat), which was used to estimate ingesta-free body fat (IFBF) in all but two of the females. Scores of the BCSF were related (r2=0.34, P<0.0001) to Maxfat. Body condition scores were not affected by sex×capture-year, capture-year, or age-at-capture, but the mean body condition score of males (6.5±0.2 [SE], n=40) was less (P≤0.009) than that of females (7.4±0.2, n=39). Overall, Maxfat ranged from 0.0 to 4.6 and 0.3 to 2.8 cm in females and males, respectively, and was unaffected by age-at-capture. There was a sex×capture-year effect (P=0.021) on Maxfat; mean values were stable for males during the winters of 2003 to 2005 but in females were lowest during 2003, consistent with the lowest pregnancy rates and lowest winter and spring survival compared to 2004 and 2005. Based on estimates of percent IFBF, late winter–early spring survival in 2003 of at least 11% of the collared animals assessed by Maxfat, 21% of the adult females, specifically, may have been seriously challenged directly by poor condition. Data from this study provide reference values and assessments of body condition of moose that will be an essential component of the additional, comprehensive research needed to better understand the influence of extrinsic and intrinsic factors on the performance of this viable, but declining, population. For future research, we will concentrate on developing a more-reliable BCS which would allow IFBF estimation once rump fat is depleted.
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Vol. 47 • No. 1