Moose in Latvia and intensive game management practices
ABSTRACT: Historical population trends of moose in Latvia and current information on moose population size, sex and age ratios, annual increment rates, and mortality factors are presented. The authors review moose antler quality, interspecific competition, food habits, and discuss forest damage by moose. A management framework for regulating moose harvests in accordance with carrying capacity, under conditions of intensive forestry, is outlined.
Keywords: Alces alces, Cervus elaphus, ecology, intensive forestry, interspecific competition, Latvia, moose, population composition, red deer
Little information is available in the published literature on moose (Alces alces) in Latvia. The purpose of this paper is to present some general background information on moose ecology within this region and discuss the role of moose management within Latvia's intensive forestry program.
PAST AND PRESENT MOOSE POPULATION STATUS
Moose have been common over the land area of present-day Latvia since the end of the glacial era. Data on moose populations for the last 5 centuries are scanty. Indirect evidence, however, indicates that moose were highly valued and populations were large enough to supply people with meat and hides. Moose numbers decreased sharply by the end of the 18th century, and 100 years later it was assumed there were no more than 1,000-2,000 moose. More reliable data indicated there were only 85 moose in 1923 and about 1,000 in 1940.
The post-World-War II period was distinguished by a marked increase in moose all over Latvia. The highest number, according to official information, was recorded in 1973 (21,830). However, more reliable methods showed these estimates were incorrect and, in most cases, underestimated the actual size of the moose population. The official numbers represent, at best, only rough estimates of population size. Follow-up investigations, using more accurate methods, estimated the number of moose in 1975 at approximately 45,000 or 22 moose/1,000 ha of forest land. On some forestry enterprises and forest ranges, this figure reached 40 moose/1,000 ha. The total harvest between 1954 and 1988 was 111,829 moose. The moose population started declining after 1975 (Fig. 1). A reliable estimate of the 1989 spring population was 16,000-17,000, or 6 moose/1,000 ha of forest. In a number of localities, the population density ranged from 1 to 5 moose/1,000 ha of forest.
The adult sex ratio of moose between 1935 and 1937 varied from 1 male/female to 1 male/1.7 females. Similar sex ratios were recorded in 1963, when there was practically no...