SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING OF MOOSE DURING WINTER: CAN HAY SERVE AS AN EMERGENCY RATION?
When severe winters result in starvation of moose (Alces alces) in the proximity of human development, people often demand emergency feeding programs. In spite of the controversy surrounding such programs, political decisions may dictate that resource agencies feed starving moose. Consequently, we tested the feasibility of using locally grown grass hay as an emergency ration. In two concurrent experiments (trial 1), 16 captive moose were maintained on either hay or a pelleted ration. In a separate experiment (trial 2), 8 moose calves were fed grass hay for the duration of winter and their health and mass dynamics recorded. Over the 1 weeks of trial 1, adults eating the hay lost an average of 53.0 kg, whereas those consuming the pellets gained 36.3 kg. Calves eating hay maintained body mass, whereas those eating pellets gained 29.5 kg. Calf moose in trial 2 showed no adverse physiological effects from the diet and maintained body mass throughout the winter. Mean urinary urea:creatine rations (U:Cr) differed (P = 0.004) between moose fed hay and pellets), but not among periods in trial 1. These results indicate a difference in intake of nitrogen, but consistency among nitrogen balance over time. Phosphorus:Cr (P:Cr) ratios were not different between treatments (P = 0.42) but different among time periods (P = 0.06), corresponding to a decline in dry matter intake which is typical for moose during winter. Cortisol:Cr (C:Cr) ratios did not differ between treatments (P = 0.82) or among periods (P = 0.19), indicating that the level of physiological stress experienced by the moose did not change. We conclude that although the pellets served as a more complete ration for emergency feeding, locally grown grass hay can serve as an emergency food for moose in reasonably good physical condition. We also tested seven new flavors to improve the palatability of our formulated ration. Moose consumed significantly more feed flavoured with milky whay when compared to the standard ration and the other 6 flavors tested. Recommendations concerning emergency feeding are discussed.
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