Five moose-spotting tips
When you walk in the woods, keep your eyes peeled! You’ll discover signs indicating the discreet presence of many animals, including the king of our forests. Here are some tips from Michel Therrien, a true wildlife enthusiast, who’ll help you follow the trail of the noble moose.
Trails etched in the forest
Moose are sometimes quite the creatures of habit. To conserve a maximum of energy, they avoid obstacles such as flooded environments and escarpments. So they often come by the same place, and like a herd of cattle, they follow paths that betray their repeated passage. Given their size and weight, the path etched by their going back and forth between a food site and a resting place is easily identifiable.
In the fall, while male (bull) moose are in rut, they constantly rub trees and shrubs with their “de-velveted” antlers. This behavior allows males to better prepare for potential fights, while further developing the muscles of their necks. The rubbed trees then show signs of damage because the force of the antlers causes the bark to burst into shreds. On occasion, males will even break the tops of small trees that sometimes remain temporarily trapped in their antlers.
In general, signs of rubbing are found between three to six feet up the tree. Occasionally, the male will also fiercely take on a number of smaller bushes that are lower in height by sweeping his antlers across various types of groves.
It’s rare for any bull moose to aggressively attack a human, but let’s not forget that the forest belongs to them. They seem to want to remind us, especially in autumn. So give a moose priority when you cross paths on a trail.
Traces of teeth on bark
When leaves become scarce on trees, moose tend to snap up bark with their incisors in order to feed. The bark of the red maple is often a target, but they also consume other hardwood bark. Attentive observers will discover lingering incisions at various heights, depending on the presence or absence of snow on the ground.
In some places, hikers may even spot tree clusters affected by this moose behavior. When the scars are fresh and the sap of the tree is still fragrant, a surprise visitor may be lurking in the vicinity, so be careful!
Feces on the ground
Moose droppings vary with the seasons and with the creatures’ diet. When leaves are no longer available on trees and aquatic plants are more plentiful, feces reach 1 inch in length and are fibrous. In summer, the droppings are more like a cluster and more brownish. When moose feed heavily on aquatic plants and weeds, we sometimes find feces in a muddier form. Hikers can determine if such moose souvenirs are fresh depending on the season during which they’re discovered.
The male wallow
Male moose woo females by spreading scent on their own bodies and leaving odors on the soil in wallows, i.e. the rut pits they create. Waning daylight serves to trigger the moose breeding season, and the male wallows play an important role for this cervidae, since a female’s period of sexual receptivity is very short.
The wallow is a pit that the male digs with his front legs and is composed of fresh soil and urine. In the course of digging, he spreads scent across the front of his body, on his dewlap (beard), and along the back of his antlers. Then, while moving about in the forest, the male comes into contact with shrubs, thus distributing his rut scent all around. A wallow can be identified simply by the smell it radiates, especially when the scent is fresh. Hikers can quickly recognize a wallow through the abnormal and very distinctive hole left in the forest. Please take note that the male is often close to his wallow when the urine deposited on the ground is still quite odiferous.