Biologists urge people not to feed wood stem-browsing moose

Posted: Monday, November 20, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- In summer, moose are garden gorgers, gobbling up heads of cabbage and broccoli in single bites. In winter, the ungulates turn to hay as an easy alternative food source.

But wildlife biologists say it's not good for them.

As moose switch to their winter diet of woody stems of birch, willow and aspen, the bacteria in their stomachs also change, allowing them to digest frozen wood for the next six months.

Once a moose's digestive system has made the switch to a woody diet, the stomach is not equipped to digest hay.

''They'll eat it and fill up on it, but they're not getting any nutrition,'' said Jeff Selinger with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

That's why wildlife managers urge people to keep their winter hay supplies secure. People can be ticketed for what state troopers term ''an attractive nuisance'' if they don't take steps to keep moose away from their hay and it lures moose into a neighborhood where they can create problems.

And with the shortage of hay this winter due to a poor growing season last summer, moose may end up taking a big bite out of a hay owner's wallet. Hay is selling for $25 a bale or $400 a ton, double last year's price.

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