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Airdate: Sep 12, 2000
Scientist: Vic Van Balenberg

Moose: Mating

Moose: Mating
Female moose make an unusual sound, and right now is the only time of year you can hear it.

ambience Moose cow moans

We're listening to sounds made by a female moose, and right now is the only time of year that she makes this particular sound. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

"Fall is when the animals are trying to mate and there's a whole set of complex behaviors, including a lot of vocalizations that you don't hear during the winter and summer."

Vic Van Balenberg is a Research Wildlife Biologist who works in Alaska's Denali National Park. He says that male moose make a sort of croaking sound when they're advertising for a mate. If the female isn't interested, she makes what's called a "protest moan."

ambience Moans

"What the cow is saying is basically, you know, "Leave me alone". And it serves a real function in that the older bulls, the more mature bulls, will approach a cow that is moaning in response to being courted by younger bulls, and he’ll actually chase the younger bulls off."

The bull moose also make a sound that's intended to scare off its rivals.

ambience Thrashing

"What you hear there is a bull thrashing his antlers in the brush. We call it bush thrashing and a bull just walks up to a clump of shrubs and lowers his head and thrashes his antlers back and forth and it's actually a threat to other moose, either bulls or cows, and this is one of the most common behaviors that you see for bull moose during the rutting season. He's kind of advertising his presence to other bulls."

Van Balenberg says that when two bulls fight over a female, it's a true spectacle of nature. They clash antlers and actually uproot trees in battles that can go on for hours. 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.