Current issue: 53(3)
Increase in the elk (Alces alces L.) population and the problems of its grazing has called for detailed research. The present study concentrated on three observation areas representing northern, western and eastern parts of Finland. There were 28 field observers watching 68 elks.
Earlier investigations in Finland indicate that aspen (Populus tremula L.) is the staple diet of elk. This study reached different conclusions, probably largely because of aspen is gradually becoming an increasingly rare tree species in Finland. According to this study, the principal food of elk in the winter is willow (Salix sp.). In the whole country, willow accounts for about 70% of elk’s nutrition. In the Far North the percentage is approx. 90. Of the other tree species, the order of preference is: aspen, Scots pine, mountain ash, juniper and birch. In addition, in Western Finland where snow is less deep, lingonberry and blueberry shrubs are on the menu. Beard moss on the spruce was frequently eaten locally. Elk seems to have eaten mainly the last annual shoot of trees and bushes. In few cases it has gnawed the bark of Scots pine, aspen and willow. Elk consumes in average 340 twigs or terminal shoots per day in the winter. This corresponds to about 1.8 kg of food.
The problem of elks damaging Scots pine seedlings has been observed in Western Finland, were the elk population is higher. The article suggests that suitable feeding places would be left for elk in places that are unsuitable for agriculture or forestry. Leaving, for instance, birch seedlings in Scots pine stands has been noticed to attract elks and to increase the damage to pine.
The article includes an abstract in English and a summary in Swedish.