Acta Theriologica

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 353–360 | Cite as

Differential selection of North American and Scandinavian conifer browse by northwestern moose (Alces alces andersoni) in winter

  • Roy V. ReaEmail author
  • Olav Hjeljord
  • Sauli Härkönen
Original Paper


Scandinavian moose (Alces alces) eat Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in winter. Although North American moose are known to eat conifers such as true firs (Abies spp.) in winter, substantial consumption of pine by moose in North America has not been documented. Here, we document short-term winter preferences of human-habituated northwestern moose (Alces alces andersoni) for branches of mature North American and European conifer species as determined by a cafeteria-style feeding trial. Moose selected for species such as Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii; from which they took the smallest bite diameters) while avoiding species such as lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta; from which they took the largest bites) and hybrid white spruce (Picea glauca × engelmanii). The amount of species-specific biomass consumed by moose was negatively correlated with bite diameters taken from branches of those species and did not appear to be significantly influenced by differences in twig morphology between species. Our trial suggests that northwestern moose readily consume conifers in winter and, from the species we tested, prefer Douglas fir. While no clear preference existed between Scots pine and lodgepole pine, moose avoided lodgepole pine, but not Scots pine, relative to Douglas fir. Our trial suggests that northwestern moose are more likely to feed on the branches of Douglas fir than pine, which may be of interest to foresters managing conifers within the North American range of moose, particularly where Scots pine are being considered for planting.


Bite diameter Browse preference Conifer consumption Feeding trial Moose Pine 



We would like to thank Alexis Arada and Jenna and Caslin Rea for long hours of measuring twig morphometrics and determining bite diameters from each twig of each branch bitten by moose. None of this work would be possible if it were not for the dedication of Peter and Angelika Langen who own and operate the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, British Columbia and for the loving care they give to bottle raise moose and deer as well as many other animals at the shelter each year. Thanks to Mike Jull and staff at the Aleza Lake Research Forest for providing branches, to Carolin Gallert, Emily Sawyer, Annette Zimolong, and Jenna Rea for help with the feeding trials, and to Amy von der Gönna for reviewing an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Ethical standards

The experiments described above comply with the current laws of Canada.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute, Ecosystem Science and Management ProgramUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Natural Resource ManagementNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  3. 3.Finnish Wildlife AgencyHelsinkiFinland

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