Moose are one of the largest animals in North America. You may think an animal this size doesn’t have many predators to worry about. However, even though they are second only to a bison in size, moose still need to be wary of some predators that are looking for a large meal.
Here are 5 natural predators of moose:
- Killer Whales
Wolves are the top predator of Moose and it’s even been studied. The Isle Royale National Park in Michigan has been watching Moose and Wolf populations interact for over 50 years, and it turns out that the large animals are very important to the survival of wolves.
While an adult moose might well be able to outrun a wolf, the clever packs have other strategies for bringing the large animals down. While targeting a smaller Moose is one option, it is more common for the wolves to find a larger, slower moose that may be wounded and taken down slowly as it weakens over a few days.
They are good enough at keeping the moose population down that the U.S. Government has resorted to introducing more wolves in the wild on occasion to keep Moose populations down, which brings us to the next predator on the list.
Moose have long been a popular animal when it comes to hunting and while humans do eat moose and elk meat, more commonly the goal is the classic hunter’s ‘antlered moose head’ trophy. Without so many natural predators, some offer that this hunting is actually essential for helping to keep moose populations managed.
That said, they are still considered to be a prized hunting trophy, and so moose hunting is still quite common in North America and in Canada to this day.
Two types of bears are known to eat moose and the first of those is the American Black Bear. While they do not actively seek them out, these small bears do occasionally attack and eat moose from time to time in the forested regions where they coexist.
The omnivorous Black Bear isn’t playing favorites, as they can and often do live together nearby moose and other creatures, it’s just a matter of opportunity and appetite – a hungry bear has got eat, and an enormous moose is obviously an attractive target.
Grizzlies, on the other hand, have a size to rival the moose and the appetites to go with it. As such, grizzly bears can and often do attack them when they spot a moose grazing nearby. While the moose has limited defense options, fully grown animals do still have their antlers and their size, and this can save them from attacks from younger, smaller bears.
Since moose don’t generally live-in herds, a hungry grizzly can watch for older animals who might be injured or simply weaker and this is a good strategy for them – a frightened adult moose can move at close to 35 miles per hour!
Calves at the most at risk, however, with up to 50% of them dying from either bear or wolf attacks before they even reach 6 months old. Their mothers will attempt to protect them, however, for up to 18 months of age. At this point, the mother enters estrus and will chase her calves away to fend on their own.
While the good news for the moose if that once they reach adulthood at around 4 years of age, their survival rate is quite a bit higher — up to 95% in fact – but until then they the calves are still quite an attractive target for hungry bears and wolves.
While they typically dine on smaller creatures like the snowshoe hare or beavers, wolverines have been known to take down the occasional moose when the dining is rough in winter. That said, it is more common for them to get a taste of moose by following packs of wolves that are hunting or have already bought one down.
This is dangerous for the wolverine, as wolves are not frightened of them and one of the few creatures in the wild that will directly attack them, but often the chance of stealing part of a large kill such as a caribou or a moose is simply too much temptation for the hungry wolverine.
Perhaps the most surprising predator on the list, accounts have confirmed that killer whales do feed on moose occasionally. Moose have almost no defensive options when they are in the water and they are moving much more slowly, at about 13 miles per hour.
While killer whales generally prefer smaller targets, they are equipped with strong enough jaws and teeth that they can take bites out of a swimming moose quite easily. That said, we don’t know if they are actually hunting them or if they are taking advantage of dead moose which have already drowned, as all our information comes from accounts and examinations of the moose carcasses.
It would make sense, however, as orcas are known apex predators and they eat over 140 species of marine life, but until we ‘catch one in the act’ we can only confirm that orcas are eating them, and not necessarily hunting them.
Moose are majestic animals that are big and powerful, yet they still have to be wary of predators. Wolves are the biggest predators of moose, but even small animals such as wolverines prey on moose.
Hunters contribute greatly to managing moose populations and makeup one of the predators on the list, but by no means are we the top predator.