Off Beat Stories

Sep 25, 2009 3:56 PM by Jason Moore

Alaskans brace for moose mating season

Love is in the air in Chugach State Park. The guys are starting to fight with one another, all to show off in front of the ladies in a period of sexual excitement.

We're talking, of course, about the rut, that special time of year moose get their groove on.

"The bulls were looking like they were getting ready to fight and then they disappeared in the brush," said George Smerud, who used to hunt moose but is now content to watch them.

Here in Powerline Pass Smerud scopes them out. No trouble finding the moose on this day -- more than a dozen can easily be spotted, the bulls oblivious to all but each other.

"The whole idea of the rut is for the males to compete and show the females, in some sense, who's the biggest and the best," state biologist Rick Sinnott said.

The rut. The mating period for moose, the time-honored duels that decide which bulls earn the affection of the onlooking cows.

"Especially with the smaller bulls and early in the season, it's almost like play, it's almost like they're toying with each other," Sinnott said. "But as the season goes longer and the hormones and testosterone kind of builds up, it kind of gets more serious."

It's still early in the season. Yet to come is the urine-filled rutting pits the bulls will dig.

"It's just kind of a little dirt, muddy area and they pee in it and then they splash the pee on their antlers and on their necks and shoulders and front legs, and just kind of cover themselves, like with men's cologne, kind of a thing and they're advertising they're on the make," Sinnott said.

For moose there is nothing taboo, or discrete, about sex. But that doesn't mean there aren't similarities between their world and ours.

"You can be the biggest strongest bull around, but you can also be the dumbest bull around and you don't necessarily get to breed if you're the dumbest bull," Sinnott said.

And it's all on display right out there in the open of Chugach State Park.

"There's a whole lot of hanky-panky going on out there," Sinnott said.

Sinnott says the rut goes on through early October with most of the mating actually happening late in September, and that's when the conflicts between the bulls increase in intensity.

 

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