MOOSE: Calves

This time of year marks the start of moose calving season. And with the increasing number of moose calves being killed by predators, they have slowly become a food du jour in many parts of the world. But the popularity of young moose as prey remains a mystery to scientists. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

We’re listening to the sounds of moose.

Vic Van Valenberg is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service at Alaska’s Denali National Park.

“At Denali and many other places in the north, predation is very heavy on calves and so these cows are trying to find places where they can be secure from being found by predators but yet, have enough food to keep them going during the time when the calf is small and can’t move.”

Van Valenberg says that in Denali Park, between eighty and ninety percent of the young calves die by the time they are six months old. Predators, such as the brown bear, are responsible for a large portion of these deaths. But this hasn’t always been the case. Scientists are trying to figure out why moose calves have become such an enticing meal.

“Well it’s not because of an increase in bears. Bear numbers as far as we know have been pretty stable in Denali for the last thirty or forty years but something happened about twenty or twenty-five years ago that changed the rate of predation on calves by bears and what that was we really don’t know.”

Some scientists say that bears may have only recently learned how to prey on moose calves, and are passing the skill along. But whatever the reason young moose are at the top of their predators menu, keeping the moose population in check.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

MOOSE: Calves

Come Spring, young moose are at the top of many predators menus.
Air Date:03/27/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

This time of year marks the start of moose calving season. And with the increasing number of moose calves being killed by predators, they have slowly become a food du jour in many parts of the world. But the popularity of young moose as prey remains a mystery to scientists. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

We're listening to the sounds of moose.

Vic Van Valenberg is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service at Alaska's Denali National Park.

"At Denali and many other places in the north, predation is very heavy on calves and so these cows are trying to find places where they can be secure from being found by predators but yet, have enough food to keep them going during the time when the calf is small and can't move."

Van Valenberg says that in Denali Park, between eighty and ninety percent of the young calves die by the time they are six months old. Predators, such as the brown bear, are responsible for a large portion of these deaths. But this hasn't always been the case. Scientists are trying to figure out why moose calves have become such an enticing meal.

"Well it's not because of an increase in bears. Bear numbers as far as we know have been pretty stable in Denali for the last thirty or forty years but something happened about twenty or twenty-five years ago that changed the rate of predation on calves by bears and what that was we really don't know."

Some scientists say that bears may have only recently learned how to prey on moose calves, and are passing the skill along. But whatever the reason young moose are at the top of their predators menu, keeping the moose population in check.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.