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Prescribed Fire in the Nelchina Basin: A Case Study for Managing Moose Population
  • Katie Anderson,
  • Donald Spalinger,
  • William Collins
Katie Anderson
Washington State University

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Donald Spalinger
University of Alaska Anchorage
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William Collins
State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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The Nelchina Basin, located west of Glenallen, AK provides important moose (Alces alces) habitat throughout the year. However, previous research in this area has shown that the moose populations appear to be nutritionally limited by the available forage. The Nelchina Basin was deemed an intensive management unit to increase moose populations through predator control efforts and prescribed fires to increase the amount of available forage, including the 2004 Alphabet Hills fire. We quantified the available digestible energy (DE) and digestible protein (DP) during the summer of 2018 and 2019, as well as the winter in between, and availability of forages for moose within the burn perimeter and the adjacent unburned forest during the summer of 2019. We found that total canopy cover of the primary forage species was lower in the burned areas than in the adjacent unburned forest habitats. DP concentration was not significantly different between forested and burned sites, and DE and DP content varied across the summer and winter sampling season. We also found a significant difference in DE and DP across the two sampling years. Although others have shown a positive effect of wildfire for herbivore populations, we found that some areas, including the Alphabet Hills area, may not be suitably adapted to benefit from the quick release of nutrients after fire and may not allocate more resources to biomass as previously expected. This project highlights the importance of research that quantifies both the availability of and the quantity of available food resources for herbivores.