Mineral licks as a sodium source for Isle Royale moose

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Department of Biological Sciences


Natural mineral licks and their use by moose (Alces alces) on Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, were studied during 1982-85. The distribution of known licks suggested that they occurred in association with glacial debris, primarily in the western portions of the island. Moose utilized mineral springs extensively during the spring-summer period, and at least 5 licks were used year-round. During summer, a pronounced diel pattern of moose visitation was apparent, with peak use occurring between 0400-0800 h. Although daytime lick use declined by late June, morning and evening use continued to be relatively high throughout the study period. Peak lick use coincided with leaf-emergence in spring. Moose continued to utilize mineral licks despite the availability of ponds containing aquatic plants. Sodium appeared to be the element attracting moose to licks where they ingest copious amounts of water. Observed sodium ingestion rates (0.35 g/min) at licks indicate that licks provide a more concentrated source of sodium compared to aquatic plants (0.023 g/min). Based on the data presented, we reject the conclusions of earlier workers that aquatic plants constitute the only significant source of sodium for Isle Royale moose.

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