Last week, Canadian resident Randi Ingram spotted a mother moose and triplets marching through her backyard in Didsbury, Alberta. Even as a self-described “nature person,” Ingram had never seen moose triplets before, so she recorded the rare footage on her phone. (Watch: Are the moose of Norway running through towns on drunken rampages?)
“Me and my husband were pretty excited. It was just like overwhelming cuteness,” Ingram tells CBC News. “The mom was a twin that we have been watching for the last three years, and she finally had her babies, so it was really cool to see that she had three.”
Rolf Peterson, a wildlife ecologist at Michigan Technological University and a National Geographic Explorer, has researched moose for decades. His only glimpse with moose triplets was three or four years ago when he recorded three calves following a cow moose on a remote camera in Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. He says the calves were about one month old, and he hasn’t seen a similar family since.
The probability of a cow moose having triplets depends on how safe and healthy it is. Whereas triplets are rare, twins are relatively common in moose if they are in a supportive environment. Peterson says if a cow moose is well-nourished, there’s a 10 to 20 percent chance it will have twins. (Related: “6 Sets of Unlikely ‘Twins’ in the Animal Kingdom”)
Based on the footage, the calves are “in great shape” and likely a few days old, Peterson says. He adds that if the calves were coexisting with wild predators, it’s unlikely they would all make it to one year old. But, the environment around Ingram’s yard could extend their lives.
“The moose in this [video] live in and around people, which is a common anti-predator behavior for cow moose, as predators usually stay away from people,” Peterson writes in an email.
It’s impossible to know for sure if the calves are siblings from the video, but their similarities in age and size point to them most likely being triplets, Peterson says. Still, it’s also true that some female moose have been known to “adopt” calves that are not their own.
“It’s not uncommon,” Tom Seaton, a state wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner when such a case happened in 2010. “All kinds of weird stuff goes on with calf trading and calf robbery with moose.”