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Moose Incisor Scrapings

3-8-19 moose scrapingIn the winter Moose feed mainly by browsing on twigs and by scraping bark off of trees. Like White-tailed Deer and other ruminants, Moose lack incisors in their upper jaw; they bite off their food between their lower incisors and a hard pad on the upper gum.

An obvious sign of Moose is the “incisor scrapes” they make when removing bark from trees with their lower incisors. An upwards movement of their head enables them to scrape a strip of bark from the tree. Sometimes instead of a clean scrape, neatly cut at both ends, you will see shredded bits of bark flapping at the top of a scrape. This occurs when a Moose begins a scrape and then grabs the piece of bark between its incisors and hard palate and pulls it upwards, peeling off a strip.
When in Moose habitat, look for the incisor scrapes of Moose on Red and Striped Maple, Willow, Trembling Aspen, Balsam Fir and Mountain Ash. Moose scrapings can be found starting as low as ten inches from the ground and can extend as high as eight feet (most likely made by a Moose standing on snow).

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10 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Good meal for the Moose, not so good for the trees….

    March 8, 2019 at 8:34 am

  2. Yes, my thoughts as well re the impact on trees. I had not realized how extensive a moose’s scraping could be. With so much bark scraped off, it looks like this tree is destined to die? True? Or can it recover?

    March 8, 2019 at 9:15 am

    • dendro

      Without being able to see the rest of the tree, it’s hard to say whether the tree has a lot of bark left. Assuming that ALL the bark was stripped off and the cambium disrupted around all the bole except that strip we can see in the photo, I have seen trees survive that. Some species handle it better than others; some species will see dieoff of the canopy directly above the scrape/disrupted cambium. Other species do a better job of delivering sap and maintaining connectivity to the entire canopy.

      I do tree-ring work, and would expect to see a growth decline after injury like this, but not necessarily mortality. Granted, I don’t work with striped maple, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

      March 8, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    • All depends on whether the bark is removed completely around the trunk, Dell. Doesn’t look good for this tree! There usually isn’t this much damage done!

      March 9, 2019 at 7:38 am

  3. kathryn connell

    Oooh… poor tree. But glad the moose had a god meal. Always seems to be a trade-off in life!

    March 8, 2019 at 9:22 am

  4. Alice Pratt

    Just a thought….there are lots of trees….and the Moose are sadly being ravaged by ticks.

    March 8, 2019 at 10:20 am

  5. Susannah

    And striped maple, like the one in the photo w the distinctive dark green stripes, is also called moosewood or moose maple.

    March 8, 2019 at 4:04 pm

  6. anne garrigue

    How much do moose scapinf bark harm the tree?

    March 8, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    • Most trees seem to recover unless bark is removed all the way around the trunk, destroying any way for water, minerals, etc. to be transported up and down the tree.

      March 11, 2019 at 8:51 am

  7. Derek Levin

    Hi Mary,
    I have a wren scouting out my back entryway again. This would be the 3rd or 4th year they’ve used that building . They frequently approach me and perch within a yard or two of me.
    I must say, it seems rather early for them.


    March 9, 2019 at 5:33 pm

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