MOOSE – Alces alces

MOOSE

Moose facts: Adults weigh 594 to 1,320 pounds (270 to 600 kilograms) and measure 7.9 to 10.5 feet (2.4 to 3.2 meters) long. The antlers of the male are longer than those of any mammal in the world and can measure up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) wide from tip to tip. The head is huge and long, with a square upper lip that hangs over the lower one. Muzzle is hairy. Coat is dark brown, fading to light brown on the long legs. Hearing and sense of smell are excellent.

Geographic range: Moose are found in North America and Eurasia.

Moose habitat: Moose live in forests where there is snow in winter. They like territory with ponds and lakes. Because they are not able to sweat, moose need to live in cooler climates. In summer, they cool off in water.

What does moose eat: Moose eat bark and branches during winter and enjoy leaves, herbs, and aquatic plants in summer. In winter, adults eat 22 to 30 pounds (10 to 13 kilograms) of food each day; that amount doubles in summer and spring. Moose can also eat toxic plants.

Behavior and reproduction: Moose live alone or in small groups. No social bonding occurs. Moose can run at 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) and swim at 6 miles per hour (9.7 kilometers per hour). They tend to stay in the same area, though some migrate between favored sites, up to 186 miles (300 kilometers) in European species. Home ranges are 3.1 to 6.2 square miles (5 to 10 square kilometers).

The polygynous moose begin breeding in August. Females attract males with a loud moaning bellow, and males groan in response. Females also emit a powerful scent. Males compete for females, and after a 215- to 243-day pregnancy, a single calf is born (though twins are common). Young moose nurse until five months of age, and they begin eating food as early as three weeks. They stay with their mother until they are one year, or the next calf is born.

Almost half of all moose young die within the first year of life. Though moose live to be five to twelve years, at eight years they begin to suffer from arthritis and dental disease. Although large, moose fall prey to grizzly bears and wolves.

Moose and people: Moose meat is a main source of food for many people. In North America, more than fifty thousand moose are harvested annually for meat and sport. They are a main attraction in the ecotourism industry.

Conservation status: Moose are not threatened.