A moose in its prime has little to fear from most predators, for few animals apart from man possess the ability to kill it. Timber wolves (Canis lupus) tend to take either calves separated from their mothers or sick or disabled animals. There are recorded accounts of adult moose standing their ground and successfully fending off entire packs of wolves. The front feet of a moose, as well as its hind ones, are lethal weapons that will take their toll on unwary adversaries. Wolves, opportunists by nature, often scavenge on moose that have died from other causes. In so doing, they often are erroneously blamed for causing the demise of those moose.
Black bears (Ursus arnericanus), being rather small bears, tend to prey primarily on newborns or exceptionally young moose. In western North America, Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), larger and more powerful than their dark relatives, have been known on occasion to take adult moose, particularly in late winter when they leave their dens and the crusty snow hinders a moose's movements. As a rule, however, these large predators seem to have little negative effect on moose populations and in some ways may be deemed beneficial by removing animals in poor or diseased condition.
Perhaps the most serious, rather sinister threat to moose comes not from large predators, such as bears and wolves, but from a rather surprising source - the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Where the ranges of moose and white-tailed deer overlap in North America, moose frequently develop a fatal illness commonly known as moose disease...
While many of the afflictions affecting moose do not cause permanent disability, as noted, some can prove fatal. Unfortunately, many people consider the death of a large animal to be tragic and believe the loss of life a waste. In the natural world, however, there is no waste. When a moose dies, every body component, whether flesh, hair or bone, is used by other living organisms. The list of animals that scavenge a moose carcass is almost endless and includes eagles, ravens, foxes, martens, fishers, wolverines and bears. The death of one moose may mean life for countless other organisms, particularly during the critical season of winter. When predators, disease, parasites or environmental stress strike, the less fit (the weakest) are usually the first to succumb. This "weeding out" of the less fit through the actions of a powerful force known as natural selection tends to result in a healthier, more fit population, which through future generations may exhibit greater resistance to those same environmental stresses.
Excerpted with permission from Moose Country: Saga of the Woodland Moose. Copyright ©1991 by Michael W. P. Runtz. Pictures and text copyright © 1991 by Michael W. P. Runtz. All Rights Reserved. (First two paragraphs taken from the Forward contributed by Dr. A. (Tony) B. Bubenik.)
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