Mountain Ash Tree v. Moose

The entrance to the Joe Dodge Lodge is decorated with a variety of native plants from high bush blueberries to Balsam Fir. One of the more outstanding flora is the mountain ash tree (Sorbus americana) that is now stripped of all leaves and berries. A once flourishing and beautiful icon of the garden, the mountain ash became a moose’s (Alces alces) breakfast. Noticed first in August, and slowly stripped of all vegetation throughout September, the October stage of this ash tree is quite depressing.

Moose (Algonquin for “eater of twigs”) lack upper incisors, so they tear rather than snip the bark, leaves, and twigs off trees. Their skull contains 32 teeth consisting of 12 ridged molars, 12 premolars, 6 incisors, and 2 canines. Weighing anywhere from 800 to 1200 lbs, a moose can consume 40 to 60 lbs of vegetation a day. This is the equivalent to a 150lb human eating 7.5 lbs of salad a day! To fully absorb nutrients, moose have four-chambered stomachs coupled with regurgitation and the chewing of cud to break down cellulose. A moose may chew its cud up to 8 hours a day! In preparation for winter, they increase their body weight by as much as 25%. As they do not hibernate, moose spend the winter in quiet solitude, stripping the bark and twigs off of trees and eating conifer needles. As this does not provide as much nutrition as leaves and aquatic vegetation, the winter is a time of rest and hunger.

If you come upon a moose this fall, observe from a distance. Moose are going into the rut, or mating, season and the males tend to be irritable as they attempt to win the affections of a lady!

-H. Cowan
AMC Naturalist Guide

Credit: S. Kennedy