Two large bull moose were recently discovered dead in a Wyoming creek after a fight that neither won.
Officials found the moose in Fish Creek, which runs through a rural part of Teton County, on October 6. Their bodies told the story of an epic battle with locked antlers. In all likelihood, after their antlers became entangled, they could not free themselves from each other. This sometimes happens to moose, deer, and other ungulates during the rut, when males vie for the attention of females.
At some point, the moose fell into the creek and apparently drowned. No known autopsy was reported, but Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Gocke confirmed drowning was the cause of death.
Bull moose are powerful animals, and well-equipped to fight. Their shoulders are huge, and during the rut, their neck muscles expand to twice their normal size, according to the National Park Service. During rut fights they use their antlers as weapons, which is what the appendages are designed for.
"Fighting (among bull moose) is... serious and violent," the NPS said."Fights often result in serious injuries, and at worst, result in death."
The moose rut usually peaks right around early October, just when these two were discovered, according to All About Moose. During the rutting time, moose can get quite ornery. They pick fights with each other and show aggression towards other animals, and even inanimate objects. Although a natural occurrence, moose fights seldom result in double deaths.
"It's pretty rare. Maybe five years ago we had a similar incident," Gocke told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. "It's kind of heartbreaking to see two healthy, mature bull moose—doing what they do during the fall rut and battling—end up dying in a creek."
Officials from Wyoming Fish and Game removed the carcasses from the creek, which they estimated had been there approximately a day or two. Before disposing of the bodies (the meat was rotten and not able to be saved), officials took a measurement of their antlers. One of the bull's antlers measured 45 inches across, while the other stretched 50 inches.
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