Munching moose in Gros Morne affecting song birds

A recent study by Memorial University found foraging moose are affecting the habitat of some song birds in Gros Morne National Park.
Moose who are foraging on vegetation in Gros Morne National park are clearing out some song bird habitats. (Courtesy Parks Canada)

A recent study by Memorial University found foraging moose are affecting the habitat of some song birds in Gros Morne National Park.

There are an estimated 100-thousand moose in Newfoundland and Labrador, and many of them live on Newfoundland's west coast area, near the park.  

The moose are eating vegetation, which is creating a problem.

Ian Warkentin is a professor of environmental science and biology. (CBC)

Professor of Environment Science Biology, Ian Warkentin, said the moose are creating what's termed a moose meadow.

"They are places where there are grasses or ferns ... there may be some shrubs but the trees don't come back," said Warkentin. 

Warkentin led a study into birds in GrosMorne, and noticed some changes. 

"We started to see some changes and one of the changes was, those birds that like forest habitat were less likely to occur at points that had, in their immediate vicinity, a large amount of this moose meadow habitat, this open habitat."

That means birds like the Hermit Thrush are being pushed out. But the species is not alone.

The Hermit Thrush is one of the bird species affected by moose foraging. (Courtesy Parks Canada)

"Black-Throated Green Warblers, which like to live in the branches, in the needles, in the upper part of the tree disappear from those kinds of points."

"There are more moose in the park, there is more of this damage that is being done to the park and its forest structures. We are going to see less and less forest habitat available, and consequently that would lead to fewer of those forest loving birds being present." 

Parks Canada is aware of the problem and said it is taking steps to help reduce the moose population in the park.

Nearly all of the 1,000 licences have been distributed for Gros Morne's Moose Management area. This year park officials are also expanding their harvesting area to 90 per cent of the park, making the hunting zone a little bit more accessible. 

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