October 3, 2020
AZ Animals Staff
Habitat: Forest areas close to the Arctic tundra
Average Litter Size: 1
Favorite Food: Grass
Slogan: Renews it's enormous antlers every year!
Moose Physical Characteristics:Colour: Tan, Brown, Grey
Skin Type: Hair
Top Speed: 20 mph
Lifespan: 10-16 years
Weight: 270-720kg (600-1,580lbs)
"Largest of all deer species."
Moose are the largest of the deer species and the tallest mammals in North America. Found in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Europe, fully grown adults stand six feet from ground to shoulder. They are identified by long faces, muzzles hanging over their chins and a flap of skin swaying under their throat. Male moose grow huge antlers up to six feet wide from one end to the other.
5 Incredible Moose Facts
- Adult male moose weigh between 1200 and 1800 pounds
- Life expectancy for a moose in the wild is 15 to 20 years
- Moose feed on land and aquatic plants
- Moose hooves work like snowshoes in harsh winter climates
- Despite looking clumsy, moose can run up to 35 miles per hour
Moose Scientific Name
Commonly called moose in America and elk in Europe and Asia, these large animals bear the scientific name "Alces alces." As mammals, they belong in the order Artiodactyla, family Cervidae and genus Alces.
The common name "moose" became a recognized English word no later than 1606. This term comes from the Algonquian language name "mo-swa" or "moosh" with possible influences from multiple other languages.
Moose Appearance & Behavior
Moose are very large, sturdy and strong. They stand from hoof to shoulder as high as a fully grown man, at about six feet. Their bones are large and bodies muscular. Females are smaller than males, usually weighing from 800 to 1200 pounds as adults. Although they can grow larger, male adults range from 1200 to 1600 pounds, on average.
These animals live in herds during breeding season in the wild, although they typically appear solitary or at a distance from other members of the herd. In fact, they are the most solitary and antisocial animals in the wild, outside of breeding. During mating season, males form their own herds of females called "harem herds." Males fight each other for the right to mate with a harem.
Moose fur is light brown to dark brown in color, easily camouflaging them in their surroundings. This fur is long and thick, with each hair being hollow to aid in warmth. Their legs are long, with the front pair being slightly longer than the back. This makes moose appear gangling and clumsy. But the longer front legs help them amble over forest debris, such as fallen trees and branches.
The moose head is long like a horse, but features an enlarged nose and upper lip. Their ears are small, as is their tail. Adding to their funny faced-appearance is a humpback appearance caused by large and strong shoulder muscles. On their throat hands loose skin called a dewlap.
Large, broad and flat antlers make a moose's appearance even more distinct from other members of the deer family. Only males have these antlers that stretch between four and six feet across at full growth. These antlers start growing in late spring or early summer, first covered by a fuzzy skin called velvet. In the velvet are tiny blood vessels that feed nutrients to the antlers to help them grown. When antlers stop growing by the end of summer, these blood vessels dry up and the velvet starts shedding. By early fall, moose antlers take on the characteristic look of dried bone. They weigh up to 40 pounds and fall off during winter.
Moose feed throughout the day. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Although they cannot see very well, they have an exceptional sense of smell. These large mammals also hear well. They are strong swimmers from a few weeks after birth and can reach a swimming speed of up to six miles per hour. Moose even fully submerge and stay underwater for up to 30 seconds at a time.
Moose are gentle and peaceful on their own in their natural habitat. But if bothered by other animals or humans, they become aggressive. These mammals are highly territorial and do not hesitate to charge at anyone or anything threatening their space. Even though they look clumsy and slow, moose can easily outrun humans. In a battle against one of their biggest predators, the brown bear, a moose puts up a good fight. They even sometimes win. To attack a predator or human, moose repeatedly stomp their legs on the threatening creature and use their antlers in defense.
Moose live throughout the colder northern regions of North America, Europe and Asia where there is annual snow cover. They cannot live in temperatures above 80 degrees, as they do not sweat. The foods they eat create a lot of body heat during digestion.
Regions have subspecies, each with unique adaptations to their environment. North American moose include the eastern moose of Canada and northeastern U.S.; the northwestern moose of central Canada, North Dakota, Minnesota and Michigan; Alaskan moose of northwestern Canada and the state of Alaska; and the Shiras moose of the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains.
In Europe and Asia, some animal experts consider the moose family to contain several subspecies, too. These unofficial subspecies include the European moose, Siberian Yakut moose, west Siberian Ussuri moose and east Siberian Kolyma moose.
Each subspecies of moose differs according to its geography, size, antler characteristics and fur. Body sizes differ due to localized diet and conditions. Alaska and eastern Siberia have the largest moose, with bulls weighing an average of 1300 pounds and up to seven feet tall at the shoulder. Wyoming and Manchuria are home to the smallest moose with bulls weighing up to only 770 pounds.
Moose are herbivores that graze from dawn to dusk. They eat up to 70 pounds of vegetation per day. Their habitat consists of plant-rich environments with shrubs available for feeding. The animals prefer shrubs disturbed by forest fires, flooding or avalanches. In summer, moose also feed on aquatic vegetation. They wade into water to reach these plants and even dive underwater to reach them. These large mammals enjoy mineral licks.
In winter, you can find moose eating fir, yew and other conifers. To get through heavy blankets of snow for eating, moose herds follow a system of trails they trample. These trails form a "moose yard."
Preferred foods in their diets include bark, leaves, twigs, pine cones, tree buds, shrub buds and water lilies. Favorites are willow, aspen and balsam fir. When they eat, their food passes through four stomach chambers as part of digestion. The first chamber ferments the food and the other three chambers extract nutrients. Like cows, moose "chew their cud." Cud is regurgitated food they chew on for a period of time before swallowing.
Foods poisonous to these otherwise hearty animals include chokecherry, European yew and Japanese yew plants. The plants prove deadly to moose because the plant cells contain cyanide gas. Within a few hours of eating these plants the moose dies. Sadly, these trees and shrubs are common to planted gardens through moose territory, such as in Alaska.
Moose prefer eating from plants at their head or shoulder level, especially with up to 40 pounds of antler weight on their heads. To reach other levels of food, they stoop to their front knees or spread their legs wide apart like a giraffe.
Moose Predators & Threats
The biggest threats to moose include bears, wolves, humans and ticks. Both brown and black bears target moose as a meal source, especially during calving season. One moose provides multiple meals for these large predators. A moose also makes an attractive buffet for a wolf pack.
To defend themselves against predators like bears and wolves, moose can run up to 35 miles per hour. Running and jumping uses little moose energy, but a great deal of energy for their predators.
When deep snow covers the ground, they cannot run fast. This is when they use another defense tactic. They find hard ground with the least possible amount of snow, such as frozen lakes or areas of land where snow has blown away. They also back up against forests dense with trees to keep wolves away from their hindquarters. If they must face off these animals or packs, they charge at their predators, kicking their legs in a way that can kill wolves and leave bears dazed.
Another moose defense against predators is going into low level bodies of water, not deep water where wolves can swim well. Wolves struggle to attack a moose in more shallow water.
Humans hunt moose but it often takes multiple shots to take one moose down. In fact, many hunters in Siberia prefer coming up against a grizzly bear, as opposed to an angry moose.
Global warming increases tick infestations where moose live. In a warmer winter, tick populations surge. These tiny parasites can wipe out a moose herd by weakening them through blood loss. Many moose die of anemia caused by ticks each year. Trying to rub ticks off of their bodies leaves many moose with hair loss in patches. This disrupted coat leads to hypothermia in winter. In New Hampshire, biologists credit a 40 percent decline in moose population in the past 10 years to ticks and other parasites like them.
Moose Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan
In early fall, male moose start forming harem herds of females ready to mate. These females attract the males using a strong scent and deep calls. Males sometimes challenge each other for the right to mate with a harem. These challenges involve use of their antlers as a threat display. They can also push each other with their antlers in a fight. But the fights do not usually get very serious because antlers can get caught together, leading to death of both bulls. At the end of these challenges, the dominant moose stays with the herd and the submissive loser of the fight scurries away.
Female moose give birth to one baby in spring or summer. Sometimes a moose can bear twins or even triplets. But most births are just one calf. Calves stand up on their first day and swim well within a few weeks. At about six months of age, calves wean from their mothers. But they remain with their mother until she has another calf in the following mating season. Moose are very aggressive in protection of their young. In fact, bull moose even charge humans or other threats during mating season and before birth of their young.
Being a moose calf is dangerous. Bears and wolves enjoy moose meat as part of their diet. About half of calves die due to these animal attacks before the age of six weeks. At four to six years of age, if they live that long, a moose calf is fully grown. But once they live to their full size, most survive into old age. Adult moose enjoy a survival rate of 95 percent. They typically live 15 to 20 years in the wild.
Moose prove to be hearty creatures. This keeps populations high. There are between 500,000 and one million moose in Canada, alone. In Newfoundland, moose were introduced to the area in the 1900s. Four moose placed in that region at that time reproduced effectively and now over 150,000 exist from those original parents.
In the United States, about 300,000 moose exist. Of these, 200,000 live in Alaska. Moose also live in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic and Russia. Their conservation status worldwide is listed as of least concern and increasing in numbers.
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