Flexing their moose-cles: two bulls spar

JACKSON, Wyo. – At some 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, bull moose cut an imposing figure in the wild. During the fall rut, it’s not uncommon to see a couple of males squaring off against one another.

Most of these matches are just sparring events where two big boys simply practice their powerful skills. Injuries rarely result—maybe a chipped antler tine or a scrape or two. The real deal is full-on fighting where two moose square off for the right to mate with their cow counterparts.

Bull moose are well-equipped to defend themselves and fight for their harems. Their neck muscles double in size during the rut. Their shoulders are massive. Look closely at the moose’s headware. There is a reason a bull moose carries a rack that includes both wider, flatter sections called “paddles,” and pointier tines. One is for puncturing or goring; the other acts as a defensive shield.

Sparring occurs between bull moose of any age and sometimes includes three at once. It involves pushing, shoving with no serious injuries. It does not determine dominance or rank. It’s just for fun.

Real fighting is almost always between two mature bulls for the right to pass on their genes. It usually begins with displays of dominance like posturing, pawing the grounds or thrashing a nearby bush with their antlers. When the battle ensues, the end result can sometimes be death to one of the combatants though usually the loser will recognize a lost cause and leave the area.

Moose watching usually goes better in winter when weather and mating drives them to lower elevations and bunches them closer together.

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