Härkönen, S. & Heikkilä, R. 1999: Use of pellet group counts in determining density and habitat use of moose Alces alces in Finland. - Wildl. Biol. 5: 233-239.
In Finland, monitoring of the moose Alces alces population has been based on moose sighting cards and on aerial or ground censuses. However, considerable criticism has been levelled at these techniques, and there is an increasing need for alternative census methods in monitoring and managing moose populations. In this study, pellet group counts were carried out to determine the density and habitat use of moose in a wintering area in central Finland. Pellet group counts were made using both strip and plot sampling procedures. Estimates of moose density depended significantly on the s ampling procedures and on the parameters used. Moose density estimates based on plots were twice those based on strips. Different plot intervals in plot sampling gave similar results. Both sampling procedures gave similar results concerning the habitat use of moose. The highest pellet group densities were observed in young Scots pine Pinus sylvestris dominated thinning stands where winter food availability is considerably high. Because food is a limiting factor in winter, pellet group numbers should obviously well reflect moose habitat affinity, which can be classified in terms of forest stand characteristics. Pellet group counts could possibly be used to estimate population densities for moose management. However, it would appear that the plot method, which up to now is the widely used method, overestimates moose densities. Because of the great variation in the results, other possible sources of error in the parameters used should also be taken into account in order to improve the accuracy of the method to be applied.
Key words: Alces alces, habitat use, moose, pellet group counts, population density
Sauli Härkönen, South Savo Game Management District, P.O. Box 14, FIN-51901 Juva, Finland - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Risto Heikkilä, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa Research Centre, P.O. Box 18, FIN-01301 Vantaa, Finland
Received 8 February 1999, accepted 26 April 1999
Associate Editor: Lennart Hansson