The fall mating season can be a dangerous, exhausting and sometimes deadly time of the year for our treasured big game species.
Sometimes we forget that until a reminder comes along like the one provided a few weeks ago by Wyoming Game and Fish warden Jerry Longobardi. Unfortunately, his note got buried in my email so you are only getting to see the photos now. He had responded to a call on Sept. 29 about two dead bull moose that had been found with their antlers fatally locked.
"Both were mature bulls ... 5 plus years old," Longobardi wrote.
A full-grown bull moose can weigh close to 1,000 pounds, so a battle between two of the behemoths is close to a ton of pushing, snorting, grunting muscle.
"The more typical palmated bull had a 45-inch spread, several points broken off. The other bull was kind of nontypical, deeper indentations in his palms that I think allowed the antlers to become locked," he wrote.
Longobardi said a homeowner found the moose dead atop a butte shortly after they must have died. The resident drove by the area where the moose were found at 6:30 a.m. and the bulls were not present.
"When he came back at 8:30, they were there, dead," Longobardi wrote. "The bull on the left broke his neck, and you can see the bull on the right broke his jaw and would have died a long slow death even if they did not get locked up. Looks like he died of stress, exhaustion?"
Luckily, because the bulls were found shortly after they died, the animals' meat could be salvaged and donated to needy families in the area. On two full-grown moose, that's a lot of hamburger -- maybe close to 600 pounds.
The bulls' antlers will go to two Wyoming Game and Fish regions and will be used for education purposes.
We don't often hear of bull moose dying from locking antlers, although incidents of buck deer stuck together are fairly common. It must be a relatively rare occurence for moose given the way their palmated antlers are shaped. It was the first incident Longobardi had seen, and in an Associated Press story WGF wildlife biologist Doug Brimeyer said such double moose deaths are extremely unusual.
Two years ago I wrote about Montanan David Iverson who had found the skeletal remains of two bulls that had locked horns in northwestern Montana. That was the first incident of moose dying in a mating season tussle that I had heard of. He had the antlers displayed in a custom-built glass-topped table.