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Medicine Bow Moose Unaffected By Bark Beetles

NPS / J. Mills

Scientists at the University of Wyoming are studying how moose respond to bark beetles killing their forest habitats.

The insects have destroyed a lot of trees in Medicine Bow National Forest. UW researcher Alex May said the goal of this project was to see how the beetles affect moose in the Snowy Range.

"We assumed that with a bunch of trees dying that maybe there's less shade available for them and so that might influence their behavior," he said. "On the flip side of that, when you knock out a bunch of forest canopy it means that more plants on the forest floor can grow, and so maybe that means there's more food available."

The study compared moose locations to a detailed map of the forest over time.

"We were really surprised in seeing that there wasn't a big difference for moose," said May. "What it really highlights is that moose are super tied to these narrow drainages where there's willow and aspen and they really just stayed there."

May said the moose population in the Snowy Range has been expanding, but this study and the recent Mullen fire suggest that growth may be coming to an end.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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