Alaska moose

As the Alaskan landscape changes, so do its wildlife.

Tape: “There were no moose 100 years ago in the tundra regions of Alaska, which is really just a shocking and profound change from what we have now – which is a huge abundance of moose across the state.”

That’s Ken Tape of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He says moose, which are often more than six feet tall at the shoulder, do best in a habitat with tall shrubs. In the late 1800s, the shrubs in the tundra only grew to three feet, or about one meter.

Ken Tape
Ken Tape

Tape: “So you can imagine – a moose standing in a patch of shrubs one meter tall sticks out like a sore thumb.”

This made the tundra poor habitat for moose. But Tape believes the shrubs grew taller and spread across northern Alaska as the climate warmed. About eighty years ago, moose began moving onto the tundra.

Tape says for now, moose benefit from the larger range, but there’s concern they might squeeze out native species, like the willow ptarmigan, a member of the grouse family.

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Tape: “I think it’s probably fair to say that the willow ptarmigan have a lot less to eat now that moose are hanging out and munching on all their food. But how those dynamics are going to play out is anyone’s guess.”

Reporting credit: Andrew Lapin/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Alaska moose photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Range Expansion of Moose in Arctic Alaska Linked to Warming and Increased Shrub Habitat
Will Moose Thrive or Die Because of Climate Change?
The Changing Arctic Landscape

A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...