Safety vest? Check. Radio? Check. Whistle? Check.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get up close and personal with a moose calf? Well I have; and to satisfy my curiosity I set out into the thick brushes of Algonquin Provincial Park to volunteer with moose calf collaring. Talk about an experience of a life time!
Since 2006, a research team from the Wildlife Research & Development section at the Ministry of Natural Resources have embarked onto the islands of Algonquin Park and WMU 49 near Huntsville to collar moose calves. During this time, Brent Patterson, Marty Obbard and their team have captured and collared over 80 moose calves – some being only four hours old while others are up to four days old.
A total of 36 calf collars were deployed this year and I was fortunate to experience five of the 36 calf collarings. When a cow (the mother moose) and calf are found it is an adrenaline rush and an experience that cannot be compared to any other. While the calf capture team gathers a sample of blood, fur, umbilical cord (if still attached), and attaches an ear tag and radio collar to the calf, the rest of the crew ensures that the cow does not get close to her calf (or the crew) while the team gathers all necessary information. Let me tell you, momma moose are not happy campers at this point in the chase, but it is our job out in the bush to ensure this process runs as smoothly and calmly as possible for both the cow and calf. The crew works fast to ensure that they are only separated for a few minutes which is good news for us trying to distract Mom!
These expandable calf collars (that fall off after a year) determine the calf’s location with the help of a special tracking receiver and antennae. The primary purpose of the collars is to determine the survival rate and cause of death for those calves that die. When a mortality signal is detected researchers do not actually know if the calf has died, or if the collar has fallen off until they embark on a search to find the collar to determine what happened to the calf.
By closely monitoring adult cows and calves, researchers are able to gain valuable information to help identify the role of Algonquin Park as a source of moose for south-central Ontario, and the importance of habitat fragmentation, hunting, predation and parasitism on moose in southern Ontario.
Would I take part in this adventure again? Absolutely! It was worth every bump, bruise and scrape.
For more information on Algonquin Park or to make a reservation, please visit www.ontarioparks.com
For more information about MNR wildlife research, visit Wildlife Research and Development