Moose are present in Anchorage, Alaska because of the absence of predators such as wolves or bears. But their population remains unknown by biologists.
A program to collect skin samples to determine DNA is therefore trying to fill this information gap. The study also aims to try to determine their exact number in town.
Counting a moose population would normally be by low-level aircraft, but this option is not possible within the boundaries of the municipality.
Biologists turned to city dwellers and encouraged them for three days in February to phone or even text the authorities whenever they saw one of these large cervids.
A team then went on site with dart guns. The darts, drawn in the flank of the animal, extract a sample of skin and hair, which can then be analyzed to determine the DNA.
In all, the team received 510 calls and text messages from residents. “[Public participation] is what will make this study a success,” says David Saalfeld, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fishing and Hunting.
DNA will allow biologists to determine the number of males and females and create a database of different individuals. “It’s like building a family tree,” says Sean Farley, research biologist for the state of Alaska.
We made a well-founded hypothesis. There has been no technique so far and this is an issue that has been stuck in recent years.
Dave Battle, biologist from the state of Alaska
The study will also determine how far moose travel, what areas they frequent and how far they move from a hunting area to the city, where hunting is prohibited.
The city of Anchorage covers 5080 square kilometers and has 300,000 inhabitants.
The population usually lives alongside moose, which are regularly found in backyards, on the street, or even in shopping center parking lots. Males, however, can weigh up to 726 kg, making them dangerous for motorists.