Is summer food intake a limiting factor for boreal browsers? Diet, temperature, and reproduction as drivers of consumption in female moose.
Additional Document Info
Food intake may limit the ability of browsing mammals to gain body mass during the growing season when the leaves and stems of woody plants are most abundant. Moose are highly productive browsers with high demands for energy and nutrients, particularly during lactation. Using an indigestible marker, we estimated dry matter intake of free ranging adult female moose with and without calves over three growing seasons. During the same period, we analyzed forage quality. Intakes were highest in late spring (280 19 gkg-0.75d-1) when forage quality peaked; however, intakes declined by 39% throughout the summer as temperatures increased and as acid detergent fiber content of browse increased. Digestibility of dry matter declined over summer from 71% to 57% among browse. Intakes were similar for moose with and without calves. Heat loads may impair the ability of moose to consume sufficient energy and nutrients. Warming and habitat change can adversely affect browser populations when poor forage qualities and low dry matter intakes combine to suppress digestible intakes of energy and nutrients.