Moose and elks are two of the largest ungulate species in North America. They can sometimes share a habitat, and even if they mostly live in coniferous forests, they can sometimes come near human settlements.
If you’ve come across pellet-like droppings in your backyard or during hikes, you might wonder how to tell which animal passed by.
Both moose and elk scat can look like pellets, but moose scat is more rounded, whereas elk droppings are more elongated. Moose poop is generally darker and larger than elk poop, varying in color from green to black. Elk feces vary in color from greenish to dark brown. Moose and elk poop both have a uniform consistency, but the latter is generally drier.
The table below shows a quick comparison between moose vs. elk poop:
|Wet patties to pellets
|Soft to dry pellets
|0.6 to 0.8 inches
|0.4 to 0.6 inches
|Green to black
|Greenish to dark brown
|Uniform; less dry
|Uniform; more dry
|Mostly tree materials
|Grasses and other vegetation
6 Differences Between Moose Poop And Elk Poop
Both moose and elk fecal matter are similar to those of other wild ruminants: they are round or elongated and have a pellet appearance.
However, some differences can make it easy to tell them apart.
Moose and elks – much like other ungulates – have pellet droppings. However, the appearance of scat can actually change between seasons.
The change is due to the different diets these animals have in the warm versus the cold months.
In summer, moose mostly feed on tree leaves, young twigs, and aquatic plants. Their droppings are a lot wetter compared to the winter pellets and generally look like wet patties. These patties turn into soft clumps and then pellets as the diet changes throughout the seasons.
Elk scat also looks like dry pellets in winter, but elks generally have drier poop compared to moose.
Thus, their summer droppings appear more like soft, deformed pellets rather than wet patties, even if the elk’s diet generally has a higher water content compared to moose.
Similar to the scat of other ungulates, moose and elk poop resembles dry pellets. However, they are relatively easy to tell apart, thanks to their shape.
Both moose and elk droppings are generally larger than the droppings of deer and other wild ungulates; thus, telling them apart is fairly easy even if the shape is similar.
Another important difference between elk and moose scat is the size.
Moose are large ruminants with a body mass that can reach almost 1,400 pounds. They can grow over 10 feet in length and are generally larger than elks.
Elks are large too, but their length rarely exceeds eight feet. They are also lighter, with a body mass of just over 1,000 pounds.
As you can imagine, a larger animal produces larger droppings, and moose scat can be twice the size of elk scat.
When it comes to ungulates, droppings come in several colors, depending on the diet. As far as moose and elk scatting is concerned, the former usually have darker droppings, varying in color from green to black.
The lighter color is more common in spring and summer when most of the vegetation moose eat consists of young twigs and leaves.
As the leaves turn brown and fall off trees, the poop turns gradually darker (and dryer), the moose’s diet consisting mostly of twigs and bark.
Elk poop has a lighter color ranging from greenish and tan brown to dark brown. However, even the darkest shade is never black.
Like all herbivores, moose and elk have multi-chambered stomachs that allow for sequential digestion. This digestion type is specific to ruminants due to their inability to digest plant materials directly.
Due to the sequential digestion, which involves several instances of regurgitation and chewing, ungulate poop is generally smooth and has a uniform consistency.
Traces of vegetal materials are hard to identify in the feces, although the herbivorous nature of the diet is relatively easy to identify from the scatting color.
Identifying an ungulate’s poop content by just looking at the droppings is near impossible, but specialists can analyze the content and figure out what herbivore it belongs to, based on eating habits.
While moose and elks can sometimes share a habitat, they have different food preferences.
Moose are almost exclusively browsers. They mostly eat tree materials, such as leaves, twigs, greener branches, and bark in the colder season.
The diet sees slight variations in summer when these animals also consume some grasses and aquatic plants.
Not only do moose consume almost exclusively tree materials, but they also have solid tree preferences. The main components of their diets include willow trees, aspens, maple, birch, mountain ash, and pin cherry.
Elk’s diets, on the other hand, are dominated by sedges, grasses, and other grass-like plants. These ungulates also consume browse, but more sporadically compared to moose.
Elks also seem to eat forbs, although their consumption is more likely incidental and related to grazing.
If you’re trying to identify scats on your property, lab tests can confirm whether they are of moose or elk based on the contents. Moreover, lab tests can also identify the species based on DNA extracted from the feces.
Moose and elk scats may look similar at first glance, but a more careful look reveals important differences that can help you identify the species.
As a rule of thumb, moose poop is larger in size, rounder, and darker in color. Elk droppings have an oval shape, range in color from greenish to dark brown, and are drier compared to moose scat.
In summer, moose scat looks like wet patties (similar to that of cows), whereas elk feces are soft clumps that still make it easy to identify the pellets.