The Pope & Young Club announces support for Shiras’ moose study

Shiras’ moose are consistently the smallest of the North American moose subspecies, both in body mass and antler dimensions.
Shiras’ moose are consistently the smallest of the North American moose subspecies, both in body mass and antler dimensions.

Pope & Young Club announces support for Shiras’ moose

Chatfield, MN – Jan. 6th, 2015 – Biologists across the distribution of Shiras’ moose are collaborating on a new study to assess variation in genetics in moose from British Columbia to Colorado.

The Shiras’ Moose show distinctively smaller body size and lower productivity. This begs the question, “do their differences reflect different genetics or, more simply, less productive habitat?” Moose are capable of dispersing long distances, and have a fairly dynamic distribution throughout this region. Populations are currently expanding into portions of northeast Montana, where their subspecies identity is somewhat unknown (Shiras’ vs. northwestern).

With this study there are two initial goals: 1) Collect moose DNA samples from across the West to assess whether Shiras’ moose are genetically distinct from other subspecies of moose. 2) Assuming we can detect a specific genetic signature of Shiras’ moose, use these genetic data to better map the current range boundary of the Shiras’ subspecies.

In addition to improving our understanding of the distribution of Shiras’ moose past and present, this study may also provide a genetic tool for verifying moose subspecies identity for the purposes of trophy records. Unlike previous studies which have analyzed small portions (2–3%) of the mitochondrial DNA, this study will take advantage of new technologies to analyze the entire mitochondrial genome (>16,000 base pairs), as well as assessing more recent genetic structure with a standard panel of nuclear microsatellites.

“Given that DNA samples are coming to us at little cost thanks to hunters, the bulk of the expenses of this project involve lab costs of running DNA analyses on both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA,” says Nick DeCesare, Research Wildlife Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “While the projected expenses are not entirely funded at this point, we have received generous grants from Pope and Young, the British Columbia Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, and in-kind funds from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. A preliminary report summarizing the initial findings of this work should become available by fall, 2015.”

The Pope & Young Club is a non-profit North American conservation and bowhunting organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of our bowhunting heritage, hunting ethics and wildlife conservation. The Club also maintains the universally recognized repository for the records and statistics on North American big game animals harvested with a bow and arrow.

The Pope & Young Club • www.pope-young.org • Box 548, Chatfield, MN 55923 • Ph: 507.867.4144