Best of the Tetons

Moose Courtship 6

Moose Courtship Behavior

Early Rut and Courting.

Moose are my favorite large mammals in Grand Teton National Park. They are beautiful, majestic and sometimes animated. This morning, I got to witness a behavior I’ve seen several times. I anticipated the action, found a good spot, and managed to capture much of it in my camera. (Note: These images are heavily cropped)

Moose Courtship 1

A mature bull moose finds a soft, sandy area and starts digging a hole. His activity catches the attention of an interested cow.

Moose Courtship 2

Once the hole is completed, the bull urinates (and no telling what else) in the pit. The smell is quite pungent to humans, but it’s like calogne to the cows. It seems to drive them crazy.

Moose Courtship 3

Even before the bull finishes his “business”, the cow is ready to knock him off the scent bed.

Moose Courtship 4

Today, the cow put her muzzle under the legs of the bull and lifted his rear end off the ground.

Moose Courtship 5

After a little touch up to the site, both are ready to lie down in the scented mix.

Moose Courtship 6

The cow is cautious, but motivated.

Moose Courtship 9

The bull is tolerant but keeps an eye on her.

Moose Courtship 7

Today, the pair stayed in the pit for around three or four minutes—both seemingly content.

Moose Courtship 10

At some point, the bull got restless and stood up.

Moose Courtship 11

Once up, the bull proceeded to run the cow off the spot. Later, the bull bedded down and the cow returned to lounge in the scented patch.

I’ve heard this called a Moose Wallow, Rut Pit, or Scent Pit. I’ve only ever seen it with moose. If there are two or more cows in the area, they compete for space next to the bull—sometimes becoming agitated, aggressive, and possessive. You quickly learn the pecking order. If you do a search on the Internet regarding the purpose of the bull’s dewlap, you might understand some of today’s behavior. Some biologists suggest the bulls dig the pit and fill it with their unique scent, then wallow in it to cover their body and the dewlap. Later, the bulls can be seen caressing the flank of the cows with its neck and muzzle—possibly transferring their scent via the dewlap to let other bulls know she is taken. Other biologists are not convinced the dewlap has a specific purpose at all, as some of the other bulls successfully court their cows without one.


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Comments (5)

  1. That is very interesting…Amazing that you were able to capture the entire event!!

  2. I am so sad we had to leave. I wanted to see more moose and they were just revving up the courtship when we left. Our last night there, we saw a bull do this exact same thing.

  3. Nice pictures.

    How are the Aspens right now, Mike? We were thinking of driving down from West Yellowstone, but don’t know if it’s too late or too early. Aspens are already turning up here. We were thinking about coming down tomorrow. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Hi Carolyn,
    You might want to keep an eye on the September Daily Updates page. Here’s the link:

  5. Moose are cute

    Awwwwwwww, moose love. That’s so CUTE!!! <333

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