Trail camera gem: Four bull moose sparring in Rangeley

Put motion-activated cameras in the woods, and you’re sure to get photos of all kinds of cool animal activity.

Four bull moose pair off to spar in Rangeley in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Morse)

Four bull moose pair off to spar in Rangeley in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Morse)

(Remember, of course, that there are laws that govern use of those cameras … check the hunting and fishing rules before you  start strapping cameras on trees).

Earlier this week, after sharing a photo of a large-ish fawn trying to nurse, I asked readers if they had any trail camera photos to share. And thankfully, Samuel Morse of Wells did.

“[I have photos] of seven bulls, all together in this bachelor group at the end of November [of 2012], getting ready for winter,” Morse wrote, sharing a photo taken in Rangeley. “I’m guessing they were determining the pecking order. The biggest bull who isn’t pictured didn’t look to have any challengers. But here is my favorite picture of four different bulls fighting.”

I sent the photo to Lee Kantar, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s moose biologist, who said he has witnessed similar situations while conducting research.

“We see bulls sparring into winter and have seen this during aerial survey work,” Kantar wrote in an email. “Antler growth and drop and rutting activity is all born from testosterone levels.  As those levels wane into the late fall and early winter and antlers drop so does the level of interaction between bulls.”

But that doesn’t mean those moose entirely forget that they’re hanging out with potential rivals, he said.

“Bulls who are hanging out together continue to display some ritualistic sparring, especially sub-prime bulls,” Kantar wrote. “The phenomenon of bachelor groups is really a result of a number of things; that is cow with calves spend time on their own or with other offspring of the dam, prime to old bulls are more solitary and this other [group of] bulls spends time together if the food source in the area can support the group.

“That being said even in February we have seen all types of moose groups associated with each other,” Kantar summed up.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.