, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 503-512

Moose-wolf dynamics and the natural regulation of moose populations

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In southwestern Québec, non-harvested moose populations stabilize at a density of ≃0.40 animal·km-2. In an attempt to test whether or not moose were regulated by predators, we investigated wolf predation near this equilibrium density (0.37) and at 2 lower densities (≃0.23, 0.17). Scat analysis in summer and feeding observations in winter indicated a greater use of alternative food resources by wolves at lower moose densities. Each wolf pack killed on average 5.3, 1.8, 1.1 moose·100 days in the area of 0.37, 0.23, and 0.17 moose·km-2, respectively. Consumption of moose per wolf was 2.8, 1.7, and 1.6 kg/day, respectively. January wolf densities were estimated at 1.38, 0.82, and 0.36 animals·100 km-2, respectively. Year-long predation rates proved to be density-dependent, increasing with moose density from 6.1 to 19.3% of the postnatal populations. We conclude that moose populations in southwestern Québec are regulated largely by predators (wolves and maybe black bears) at a density where competition for forage produces no detrimental effect. We support the concept that wolf predation can have an important regulatory effect at low moose densities but also a depensatory (inversely density-dependent) effect at higher densities.