Researchers say that female moose may be able to exert significant control over their choice of mate by strategic moaning.
While it was already known that female moose make “protest moans” in response to courtship attempts, scientists now believe that females moan more when approached by smaller males in order to trigger aggression in larger male moose suitors and start fights, the BBC reports.
This allows picky females to have some choice in their moose mate.
Studies carried out in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve by a team from Idaho State University found that female moose moans are more complex than previously thought.
The team’s findings, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, reveal that moose moans have a dual purpose.
"Female moose gave protest moans more often in response to courtship by small males, even though the large males engaged in more courtship," researcher Terry Bowyer of the University of Idaho told the BBC.
"This behavior by females helped them avoid harassment by smaller males, but also provoked fights between large males," Bowyer said.
"Protest moans allow females to exert some choice in a mating system where males restrict [that] choice through male-male combat.”
Moose mating takes place during the autumn rut and often involves spectacularly fierce battles as males compete for females.
The average adult moose is 6-7 feet high, with males weighing up to 1,500 pounds. The antlers of a male moose usually have a span of 4-5 feet.
Moose are polygynous, which means that one male mates with many females but each female only has one male mate.