Is Climate Change Increasing Moose Numbers In Southwest Alaska?

From Alaska Public Media: Is climate change a factor for one area of Southwest Alaska’s increase in moose numbers? Here are some details:

In the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge specifically, the moose population has increased a whopping 400-fold since the early 1990s, from just a handful a few decades ago to about 2,000 animals now.

The reason appears clear: climate change. Milder winters and the proliferation of vegetation correlate directly with the moose population boom, according to ongoing research by Sebastian Zavoico, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The strongest part of the trend seems to be in river-crossed areas on the western side of the refuge, where woody shrubs have spread into areas that used to be more tundra-dominated, said Zavoico, who has used mathematical analysis to compare climate and vegetation changes with moose population changes.

The Togiak moose changes are part of a global pattern, Zavoico said. “We know that species are shifting their distribution all over the world,” he said. “It definitely fits the mold, that’s for sure.”

There have been several Alaska-based studies in the past citing climate change for impacts on brown bears having to alter their diet habits and salmon failing to complete their life cycle, among other issues.,