What Do Moose Eat? (Diet & Facts)

What would you do if the plants you placed around your home killed a couple of the wildlife  – like moose – in your area?

As someone that wants to respect and live in peace with my surrounding environment and animals, we will share with you what you can do to avoid unnecessary casualties.

Specifically, we will answer the big question: What do moose eat?

Facts About Moose

The name “moose” is only used in North America. They are called by other names in various places around the world.

According to an article written by Animal Wised, moose, and other animals such as elk and reindeer, are considered to be members of the deer family. This is due to several characteristics all of these animals have in common.

It is first necessary to note that deer as a whole fall under the ruminant category. This means that deer must chew their food thoroughly in a process known as rumination.

This process plays an essential role in how deer digest food. Specifically, the first characteristic that ties all of these animals together is that they all have stomachs that divide into four compartments, allowing deer to ferment, digest and then metabolize their food.

The second characteristic is the ability male deer have to possess antlers. The only exception to this rule is the water deer, which instead has tusks where their canine teeth would be.

To continue, moose prefer cooler temperatures and forests. As such, moose can most likely be found in the forests of Alaska, Canada, the coldest regions of Europe, and some areas of Russia and China.

Moose mating season is from mid-September to mid-October. This is called the rut. The most common breeding method involves male moose, called bulls, creating wallows in the mud, urinating in said craters, and then rolling around in their urine.

This is done to make a strong scent to attract the female moose, which are called cows.

How to Identify a Moose

Moose can easily be distinguished from other deer. This is because the moose is the largest member of the deer family.

An adult moose can be from 4.6 to 6.9 feet tall at the shoulder, 7.9 to 10 feet long, including their entire head and body, and these animals can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. They also have wide hooves to help them walk in the snow.

What Do Moose Eat?

Moose 1
Image Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

Despite their large size, moose can maintain their physique by primarily eating plants, with only a few exceptions. Specifically, to stay healthy, a moose needs to eat about 40 to 70 pounds of vegetation a day.

An interesting aspect of moose is that they are very selective eaters. Unlike typical deer, moose are also browsers, just as elk are. This means moose and elk tend to eat vegetation that is a bit more off the ground rather than low down.

According to Birds and Wild, moose will specifically eat a tree or shrub’s leaves, buds, shoots, and twigs. Alongside trees and shrubs, moose will also eat wildflowers, fruits and vegetables, nuts, fungi, grains and grasses, aquatic plants, and salt and mud.

Fruits and vegetation are essential parts of a moose’s diet as they provide a lot of great nutrients and vitamins. Moose tend to prefer dark, leafy greens while avoiding foods that might have strong smells, thorny leaves, or skins.

Which species of these foods moose eat depends on what is available around them locally. Moose tend to help these organisms and the trees that produce them by spreading their spores or nuts through their feces.

Aquatic vegetation such as water lilies and pondweed is also a great source of nutrients moose can eat at various levels in the water that other land mammals typically don’t have access to.

Lastly, moose eat salt and mud as these provide much-needed calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium to a moose’s diet.

These nutrients are vital in helping moose maintain their enormous bone growth to support their skeleton and antlers. A few places where moose can find salt, for example, include the soil, rocks, and shores.

Is it ok to feed moose?

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, you should be careful not to attract or intentionally feed any moose.

Feeding moose could potentially put both the life of the moose and your own at risk, as these animals can become quite aggressive during the wintertime or when trying to secure a good source.

What is Moose’s Favorite Food?

Moose tend to favor the following trees and shrubs: willow, aspen, balsam fir, poplar, and dogwood, to name a few. Moose will also eat wildflowers and are most attracted to labrador tea, tulips, impatiens, lilac, and pansy.

A moose will also eat cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. In terms of fruits, these animals enjoy cranberries, raspberries, pumpkins, and plums.

The nuts moose prefer chestnuts, acorns, and walnuts, and their favorite grains and grasses include corn, oats, wheat, and rye.

Do Moose Eat Meat?

Moose don’t eat meat, as they are herbivores, but they might eat a few insects or fish while searching for aquatic plants to feast on. However, they do not actively hunt these fish as a food source.

What Foods Are Toxic to Moose?

Moose 2
Image Credit: Wild Republic

There are a few plants or fungi that can be toxic to moose. Two such plants are the Japanese Yew and the Chokeberry, as described in this article by Feeding Nature.

These two plants, in particular, contain high amounts of cyanide that can kill a moose. Another harmful plant is red fescue, a type of grass with a fungus that produces a toxin ergovaline.

 What Happens When Moose Eat Toxic Foods?

What happens to moose when they eat toxic foods depends on the toxin they digest. Ergovaline, for example, is a toxin that causes animals to lose parts of their feet, tails, and ears and develop digestive issues.

Moose have a defensive system that allows them to protect themselves against toxins by producing a chemical in their saliva that essentially detoxifies an otherwise rich food.

How Do Moose Forage?

According to A-Z Animals, despite being generalists, moose tend to eat the rarer plants in their habitats when searching for food. This means that while moose get many of their nutrients from a diverse sources of nutrition, they are very particular about which foods they eat.

Do Moose Forage Differently By Season?

What moose eat can also be dictated by the seasons. For example, when tracking where moose get their sodium intake throughout the year. Moose eat aquatic plants full of sodium in the summer and are seen near highways in the winter to get their sodium through road salt.

Moose also tend to eat more soft, leafy vegetation in the summer, when this is more prominent, and then, in the winter, they will focus on the tough, woody twigs of trees instead.

What Are the Predators of Moose?

Moose 3
Image Credit: Backpacker Magazine

Wolves are moose’s primary predator, and this is due to the pack tactics wolves use to slow, overpower and eventually kill even large moose.

On the other hand, bears tend to act as opportunistic killers by killing young calves or even stealing kills orchestrated by wolf packs because they have less stamina to keep up with large animals. Grizzlies and black bears are some of the most common bears that hunt moose.

Wolverines, despite their significant size difference from moose, hunt in a similar way to bears. That is, they wait for when a moose is sick or injured enough for them to be able to keep up with it and eventually hunt it down.

Next are the cougars. Usually, a cougar will ambush a moose by jumping on its back and crushing its neck with its powerful bite.

Lastly, Siberian tigers hunt young, old, female, injured, or sick moose. They will hunt moose in a similar way to cougars. However, Siberian tigers tend to pounce on a moose’s neck directly rather than its back.

Do Humans Hunt Moose?

Humans hunt moose for sport, fur, meat, and population control. It is essential to consider that, due to their size, moose are seen as great trophies for sport and potential threats if found nearby human populations.

It is common for a person to kill a moose by using a rifle or bow and arrows and shooting the animal through the heart or lungs.

Final Words

To finalize, moose are strong animals we as people should respect and take care of, and learning more about them is one step forward in doing this.

Please comment if you have any questions, and check out this video by Ranger Planet if you are looking for more information.

Key Takeaways

  • Do not plant any toxic plants near your home, such as those mentioned above.
  • Be careful in planting any vegetation that might attract moose to your areas, such as willow, aspen trees, or lilac flowers.
  • Do not intentionally feed any moose you find in the wilderness. Instead, stay as far as possible to keep yourself safe.
  • Call your area’s respective fish and game or animal control department if you see someone feeding moose, planting toxic plants, or partaking in similarly harmful activity.

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