Why don't bull moose eat during the rut?
- Cite this article as:
- Miquelle, D.G. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1990) 27: 145. doi:10.1007/BF00168458
Reduced forage intake by males is generally believed to coincide with the peak of rutting activities in many ungulates. Activity budgets of bull moose (Alces alces) in Denali National Park and Preserve (DNPP) and Isle Royale National Park (IRNP) were analyzed to assess: (1) if time spent foraging decreased during the rut; (2) the timing of reduced forage intake; (3) whether there was variation in feeding time among bulls of varying size; and (4) the proximate mechanism and adaptive value of reduced forage intake. Time spent feeding by bull moose began to decrease around 1 September: large bulls completely ceased feeding for approximately 2 weeks, with median dates of feeding cessation at 18 and 20 September for IRNP and DNPP, respectively. Small bulls fed at reduced rates, but did not cease feeding. Although large bulls in both study sites spent large amounts of time engaged in social behavior during the period of appetite suppression, much of their active time was also spent standing inattentive, i.e., engaged in no activity (45.5% in IRNP, 29.8% in DNPP), suggesting that a constraint in time budgets did not limit opportunities to feed. Forage intake reduction is more likely mediated through a physiological mechanism. Feeding cessation did not coincide with the peak of the rut: at DNPP the median date of feeding cessation was significantly earlier than the median date of breeding behavior and fighting. The timing of feeding cessation coincided with that of scent-urination at both study sites, raising the possibility that appetite suppression may be a byproduct of physiological processes associated with chemical communication.