Microhistological analysis of feces is the most applied noninvasive method for assessing diets of wild ungulates. However, the method is complicated by differential digestibility of forage species. To evaluate the efficacy of this method in quantifying browse components in summer diets of moose (Alces alces L.) on Norwegian rangelands, we compared it to parallel field surveys of browsed vegetation on the same range. Although the same principal diet components were identified in the feces and in the field, there were consistent discrepancies between the two methods in estimated proportional diet contents. Birch (Betula spp.) showed the highest field:fecal ratio: 3.3 ± 0.50 compared to 0.9 ± 0.16 for Salix spp., 0.8 ± 0.16 for aspen (Populus tremula L.), and 0.6 ± 0.12 for rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L.). Until in vivo fecal correction factors for differential forage digestibility are available, we caution against broad application of fecal analyses for estimating proportions of browse in moose diet. Although we could not determine the exact amount of discrepancy implicit in each method, previous studies of moose summer diet in the area clearly indicate that fecal analyses gave a less accurate representation of actual moose browse diet than did the field survey. Fecal analyses are nevertheless needed to identify moose diet components other than browse, which are not easily obtained from field surveys.
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Vol. 63 • No. 3