Moose Feeding

Moose forage in the summer when leaves are out by grabbing a twig between their upper and lower jaws, often while holding the head partially sideways. The twig is put into the long space between the incisors and the cheekteeth (molars and premolars), called a diastema. Their flexible nose also helps in gathering more twigs into the mouth. The pictures below show a moose grabbing twigs and then stripping the leaves off of the twig. The aftermath of the foraging is a leafless current annual growth (CAG) twig which has some petioles attached (See forage page).

Cow Skull
Browsing moose Browsing moose Browsing moose

Winter browsing is a little different because there are no leaves to strip. Instead, twigs are clipped off by the lower inscisors and the pad. Sometimes moose will also clip plants in summer. An example is fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium). We will link to a video of a moose in Alaska feeding continuously on a "lawn" of fireweed flowers in the next update. Cow skull from front We'll put a front end picture of a moose mouth here. The picture will be from the next roadkill we have access to.
Moose almost always eat standing up, but there are cases where they will feed in more awkward positions. Here is a bull in early May feeding on emerging shoots of large-leaved aster (Aster macrophyllus) and bush honeysuckle (Diervella lonicera) on Isle Royale, and a cow in Alberta feeding on grass where the kneeling is much easier to see. Both moose are actually on their "wrists" even though we might be tempted to say they are on their knees or elbows.
Kneeling moose Kneeling moose
Other foods are also part of a moose diet. Here, a yearling is walking along the shore of Feldtmann lake on Isle Royale National Park. She was feeding on sprouts of horsetail (Equisetum) that were washing in with wave action. Moose are well-known for feeding on aquatic plants in the spring and early summer. The aquatic plants moose feed on are higher in sodium than terrestrial plants, and this is thought to be why aquatic foraging occurs. A page on aquatic foraging behavior will be added in the future.
Easting horsetail Aquatic feeding
Moose are ruminants, which means that they have a 4-chambered stomach and regurgitate stomach contents to chew their cud, just as cows do. The rumen is the first chamber of the stomach and is also the largest. Below is the rumen contents of a moose that was hit by a car near Isabella, Minnesota. The picture on the left shows how large stomach contents can be, the image on the right is a close-up of contents. Once twigs and needles are ground up to small enough size, they pass out of the rumen.
Rumen Rumen contents

Further Reading

Empty for now.