This moose, is most likely a yearling (a moose in its second year of life). We wondered if it was a male or a female…
After returning home from Algonquin Park, I read an MNR document that said to look for a vulva patch or “a triangular area of light-coloured hair located below the tail of a female moose”. This photo answered my question.
The next photo shows the moose swimming about 25 metres from the bow of the canoe. She was foraging on the South side of the bay and then swam across to the North side of the bay to continue foraging. It was about 8:00 am. Arowhon Lodge is in the distance, where my sister’s wedding celebration took place the day before.
Moose trailing (On a Wild Moose Chase)
On the morning of Sunday, February 8, 2015, Alexis Burnett found some fresh moose tracks a few kilometres west of the Wildlife Research Centre in Algonquin Park. Our tracking group seized the opportunity to learn more about moose from these tracks and possibly jump on a fresh moose trail. We arrived at the location on the south side of Highway 60 and found fresh moose tracks in a clearing between the road and a pine, fir and spruce forest.
We found imprints of moose noses in the clearing where the moose had leaned down to eat snow. The nose prints were close to the road and I wonder if the snow tasted salty?
Uphill, I found an area with fresh browse. The moose had been eating the branch tips and terminal buds of the balsam fir trees.
We found moose beds overlooking the road.
The moose trails crossed Highway 60 and we followed them into a forest on the North side of the road. The trails criss-crossed every which way. Dan Gardoqui would call this a “Moose Disco”.
We reached an opening about 50 metres into the forest. Suddenly, a raven called from one of the trees ahead of us. We paused and waited. My understanding about the connection between moose and ravens is that ravens are scavengers. They want a predator (like a wolf pack or a human) to harvest the meat of a prey species (like a moose) so that the raven will be able to scavenge the meat once the carcass is opened. That is why ravens alert predators to the presence of prey species. Suddenly, we saw movement up ahead. There were two moose browsing close by!
We carefully moved to within 25 metres of the moose. It was amazing! One of the moose was a young bull moose. The moose knew that we were there and he seemed content to continue browsing Balsam Fir and watch us. We nicknamed him Malcolm. At one point in time, he pawed the ground and then lay right down in front of us. He had made a moose-bed! We were watching a track being made in real-life time. My heart melted right there. He was adorable! Trailing leads to the possibility of sharing a page in an animal’s life in real time. I was hooked on trailing right then and there.
Wolves and Moose
On February 1st 2015, I completed a Cybertracker Track and Sign Evaluation with George Leoniak in Algonquin Park. On the last day of the evaluation, George located a fresh moose kill on the North side of Highway 60. We went to check it out and determine what had happened to the moose. Upon arrival, this is what we found:
Had the moose been hit by a car? We started to find clues that suggested otherwise. We encountered wolf tracks west of the kill site.
The moose carcass was at the bottom of a steep hill. The hill showed evidence of the moose sliding down, maybe on its side.
We went up the steep hill on snowshoes to find more clues. This is what we found:
There were two moose beds at the top of the hill. The hill was on the North side of the highway, facing South. Upon closer inspection we found evidence that two wolves had ambushed the moose while they were sleeping. We noticed one moose trail heading North into the forest. The second moose trail slid down the hill. Here is a closer photo of the moose bed. Look for two wolf tracks right in front of the bed:
I went to the top of the hill to look down at the carcass. On the hill, I could see moose tracks where the moose had made an attempt to get back up the steep slope.
There were signs of blood splatter at the top of the hill and wolf tracks where the wolf had attacked the moose.
This attack likely caused the moose to slide down the hill again, possibly injuring itself. If the injury was not fatal, the onslaught of the hungry wolves moments later would have been. The carcass was bitten into on the right shoulder.
This moose carcass will provide nourishment for many Algonquin animals that need it, especially during the late winter months when food is scarce and hard to find. We shared gratitude for this moose’s life.
*note the “praying hands” of the Hobblebush.
Moose often rub parts of their body on trees while wandering through the forest. You can sometimes find “winter ticks” where a moose has left a patch of hair behind. We did not find any signs of winter ticks on the moose that we were trailing along the Highway 60 corridor of Algonquin Park.
This antler rub was found on Sasajewun Lake near the Wildlife Research Centre in Algonquin Park. I learned that Moose choose sappy trees (such as the conifer in the above photo) to mark their territory. The sticky sap holds the scent and hair of the moose longer than a deciduous tree might.
Moose Pull-Down (of Branches or Trees)
Moose will bend or break small trees for a couple of reasons. Moose pull tree limbs to either bend or break the trunk so that they can reach nutritious buds on a sapling. Moose may also straddle a small-diameter tree and feed as they walk forward. The trunk will often bend or snap under the massive weight of the moose. If you look closely at the previous photo, you may notice moose hair that was left behind on the broken trunk. The moose that left this sign may have straddled the sapling to get into a better position to rub its antler on a nearby Balsam Fir.
Moose tracks are slightly asymmetrical. This track represents toes 3 and 4 (toes 2 and 5 are dewclaws). Toe 3 is slightly smaller than toe 4. My understanding is that the smaller toe is on the inside of the track so that would make this track a right hoof. I was recently tracking with Dan Gardoqui (White Pine Programs) in Algonquin Park and he emphasized the importance of knowing individual track morphology. He would erase everything thing else around the track so that we were forced to use the characteristics of the individual track to determine left or right foot. This is good way to challenge a tracker’s comfort zone.
Question: Where is toe 1 on a moose?
Is this a front or a rear foot? I learned from a Cybertracker Track and Sign evaluation with George Leoniak that there is a difference between the front and the rear dew claws of a moose and how they register in snow (or mud). When looking at a front track with dew claws registered, the dew claws will angle out and be closer to the toes than on the rear. The dew claw marks will register more or less in line with the lateral edge of the hoof. When looking at a rear track, the dew claws are higher up on the leg and will therefore register further back (in comparison to a front track). They will point straight and be farther away from the toes than the dewclaws on the front. The rear dew claws will also register slightly to the inside of the lateral edge of the hoof.
Deep Snow Tracking
How do you determine the direction of travel when you find a track like the one above? Consider the moose track like a sideways hourglass. The hoof enters the track on an angle (requiring more space) and lifts upwards out of the track (requiring less space). Generally, the smaller end of the hourglass points in the direction of travel. In the above photo, the hoof tips also leave an impression in the snow as the moose moves forward. The direction of travel is to the left.
Moose scats vary with the moisture content of their diet. During the colder months, a woody diet produces harder pellets which hold their shape well and persist into the summer. An example of this can be seen in the next photo, taken during the month of August:
Summer scats are loose, without a clearly defined shape due to the high moisture content of herbaceous plants. Moose patties are often a result of feeding on wetland vegetation.* (Mammal Tracks and Sign, page 491)
*Elbroch, M. 2003, Mammal Tracks and Sign, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
According to research by MacCraken and Van Bellenberghe (1987), moose pellets with a width less than 1.63cm are not from an adult male and moose pellets with a width greater than 1.64cm are not from a yearling. It has also been suggested, though not confirmed, that bull moose pellets are blockier than the rounded pellets of females.* (Mammal Tracks and Sign, page 492).
*Elbroch, M. 2003, Mammal Tracks and Sign, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
I have just recently discovered that the smell of moose urine in winter is quite appealing. The smell is similar to sweet coconut or Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen. Try it and tell me what you think…
Is this urine marking from a male or a female moose?
Anatomically speaking, female moose tend to urinate straight down. The urine pools out from the centre of the marking. Male moose tend to urinate ahead of the rear feet. The urine marking will show more signs of spray. This photo shows a urine marking from a female moose.
Clodhopper or a clipper?
This piece of ice was found by Dan Gardoqui (White Pine Programs) in a moose bed. It is an ice cast of the subunguis (soft layer of the hoof) located between the unguis or hard layers of the hoof. I believe that this might be called an ice casting of a “frog” in horse person world.
Is this jaw bone from a moose that was younger or older than two years?
While taking a Cybertracker Track and Sign evaluation with George Leoniak, I learned that 3 cusp teeth are considered to be “baby teeth” for moose. The 3 cusp tooth will be replaced by a 2 cusp tooth after 1.5 years. This jaw bone is from a moose that was younger than two years. In reference to aging moose teeth, I also noted how sharp the teeth are. Moose teeth will wear down with accumulated years of use.
This photo of a cow keeping careful watch of her baby was taken while on a canoe trip in northwest Algonquin park (from July 2012):