Species: Alces americanus, Alces alces
Basic moose facts:
Moose are the largest members of the deer family.
Males (called bulls) have huge antlers that they shed each winter, which are different from deer antlers in their shape. The antlers help channel sound to a moose's ears.
Unlike their deer cousins moose are solitary and don't form herds. Generally slow-moving and easy-going, moose can become aggressive and move surprisingly fast if angered or startled.
The moose mating season is in the autumn and can lead to spectacular fights between males competing for the right to mate with a particular female.
Moose are large and heavy, with massive heads and long noses. They have short tails, a hump on the shoulders and large ears they can rotate.
Moose can move through deep snow with their long legs, insulated from the cold by a thick coat of hollow hairs.
They have good senses of smell and hearing, but are not noted for their eyesight.
Males and females are about the same height (4 to 6 feet, or 1.2 to 1.8 meters, at the shoulder) but males weigh more, around 950 pounds (430 kilograms), while females weigh 750 pounds (340 kg) on average.
Moose eat up to 50 pounds (23 kg) of plants each day, and may migrate seasonally looking for freshly growing plants. Much of a moose's energy is maintained by eating flowering plants, and fresh shoots from trees such as willow and birch. These plants are rather low in sodium, and moose generally need to consume a good quantity of aquatic plants to make up for it. While much lower in energy, these plants provide the moose with sodium, and as much as half of their diet usually consists of marsh or river plants. A moose stomach can hold up to 112 pounds (51 kg) of food at one time.
Moose are generally solitary creatures, but they do form strong bonds between mother and calf. One or two calves are born in May or June per female. Newborn moose have fur with a reddish hue, and they stay with their moms for a year, until the next babies are born. Calves grow rapidly and gain about 3 pounds (1.4 kg).
The lifespan of an average moose is about 15–25 years.
The moose lives in many places in forests around the Northern Hemisphere. Some moose live in North America in places such as Alaska, Canada, the Rocky Mountains, Utah and Colorado. They also appear in parts of Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Dakota.
Moose also live in Siberia and Scandinavia. In Europe and Russia, moose are known as elk (which is particularly confusing because in North America, elk is a different animal altogether).
Conservation Status: Least vulnerable
The total North American population is about 800,000-1.2 million animals. Hunters take about 90,000 moose annually. Their only other predators are bears and wolves.
Fortunately, moose continue to be abundant despite fairly intense hunting pressures in parts of its range. They are expanding their range in places and are tolerant of new habitats.
Odd facts about moose:
The word "moose" comes from an Algonquin word that means "twig eater."
Moose can run up to 35 mph (56 kph).
Moose are very good swimmers and they can swim about 6 mph (9.6 kph) — not too shabby for a creature with four long, skinny legs. They can also submerge under the water for 30 seconds or more.
The male will drop its antlers after the mating season to conserve energy for the winter. A new set of antlers will then regrow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastest growing animal organs.
That flap of skin hanging from a moose's throat is called a bell. Scientists aren't completely sure what it's purpose is, but they think it helps males attract females.
Moose noses are incredibly sensitive. Occasionally, a wolf may immobilize a moose by biting its nose, the pain of which can paralyze the animal.
Moose have been hunted since the Stone Age. Excavations in Sweden near to the Stora Alvaret archeological site have yielded elk antlers in wooden hut remains from 6000 B.C., indicating some of the earliest elk hunting in northern Europe.
Moose can be domesticated. A farm in Russia set up a selective breeding program and has a small herd of docile moose that are used for pets and milk. In Sweden there was a debate in the late 18th century about the national value of using the moose as a domestic animal. Among other things, proposals came up to use moose in postal distribution, and there was a suggestion to develop a moose-mounted cavalry. Such proposals remained unimplemented, mainly because the extensive hunting for moose nearly drove it to extinction, as well as moose aggressiveness during the mating period.
More moose info:
- American Museum of Natural History: Moose
- IUCN Red List: Alces alces
- IUCN Red List: Alces americanus
- National Wildlife Foundation: Mighty Moose!
- National Geographic – Moose
- Minnesota Zoo – Moose Facts