Moose

Scientific Name: Alces alces

moose

Did you know that moose are the largest member of the deer family? Male moose, known as bulls, can weigh as much as 1,400 pounds. That is equivalent to about 8 grown men! However, the species of moose found here in the Border Country are usually between 700-1,200 pounds. Females usually weigh between 700-1,100 pounds and males are between 900-1,200 pounds. Moose are unique, charismatic animals. They are easily identified by their large noses, humped shoulders, and great size. These animals also have a huge flap of skin and fur under their necks called a “bell.” Male moose have a much larger bell than females. Another cool characteristic of moose are the large antlers found on males. Sometimes these antlers weigh as much as 75 pounds! The males spend a lot of their energy growing these impressive antlers. Each year the antlers are shed between mid-December and January and begin to grow again in early spring. Antlers grow quickly and a thin furry covering known as “velvet” begins to grow over them. In August, when the antlers are full grown, the velvet sloughs off within a few days.

Did you know that moose can run up to 35 miles per hour? They can also move quickly in water. Moose are very good swimmers and they can swim about 6 miles per hour. That is quite impressive for a creature with four long, skinny legs.

What do moose eat? Moose have very different diets from us. They are known as herbivores which means they only eat plants. The amount of food that they need to eat changes throughout the year. In the summer, when there is plenty of lush food available, the moose eat large amounts of catkins and tall grasses living in the water. They even eat the leaves of water lilies. They also enjoy eating fresh plant shoots. In the winter they do not eat much because food is harder to find. During winter they mostly eat willow bushes and other woody plants. In the spring, summer, and fall moose need to eat about 50-60 pounds of food per day to maintain their great size. A moose stomach can hold up to 112 pounds of food at one time!

Click on photo to enlarge

Click on photos to enlarge

Where do moose live? Moose prefer cool climates and places with a lot of fresh water. They are found in some of the northern most states in the U.S. such as Wyoming, Montana, Maine, and Minnesota. We are fortunate here in the border country because moose are found all over this area. Moose prefer old mature forests filled with spruce, aspen, and willow thickets. In the summer it is quite common to see moose swim across lakes and ponds to find food. They spend much time munching on catkins and grasses that grow in the lakes. To make sure they obtain enough nourishment out of the grasses they eat the entire plant, including the roots. In the summer, moose usually live alone. Sometimes they will meet up at common feeding area and the males are known to group up and play with each other. One of their favorite games is called “sparring”. This is when they push each other with their antlers. It is rare for moose to actually fight. The pregnant females are usually found alone. In the winter, moose will sometimes form herds to simplify travel through the snow to find feeding areas.

What do moose families consist of? Male moose are called bulls, female moose are cows and young moose are known as calves. Cows usually have about 1-2 calves at a time. The calves are born in May and June and weigh between 25-34 pounds. Unlike human babies calves can walk on their first day of birth. The calves stay with their mothers for about a year until the cow has another calf. In the fall, bulls begin rutting and look for cows to mate with. Sometimes these wandering bulls get into fights with other males.

Click on photo to enlarge

How do I look for signs of moose? A good clue to see if moose have passed by is to look for their footprints or tracks. They have split hooves that are usually about 5 inches long. Another clue of moose activity is to look out for their droppings or scat. In the summer when they are eating lush green plants their scat looks like piles similar to cow droppings. In the winter their scat look like long round pellets. Moose also like to rest on the ground. If you find a clearing in the grass or snow that is about 4 feet wide then it is likely that you found a moose bed!

Moose Links

Sources Geist, V. 1999. Moose:Behavior, Ecology, Conservation. Voyageur Press, Stillwater, MN. Stensaas, M. 1993. Canoe country wildlife: A field guide to the North Woods and Boundary Waters. Pfiefer-Hamilton, Duluth. Whitaker, J.O. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

 

Dave Freeman is the Executive Director of the Wilderness Classroom. Dave and Amy Freeman have traveled over 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places. National Geographic named the Dave and Amy Adventurers of the Year in 2014.

When the Freemans aren’t on expeditions or conducting school assemblies, they guide canoe, kayak and dogsled trips.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted January 18, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    This makes perfect sense! We were in the woods and saw a moose! Is it normal for moose to charge when protecting its offspring? Because it charges at us then and left.

    • wildernessdave
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Moose calves are born in the spring and are basically small adults by the middle of the winter so I don’t think that it was protecting its young. It might have felt threatened for some reason and charged. Typically Moose move away or ignore you when you see them, but they are vary large and very strong so you should never try to approach a Moose. I have had female Moose show signs of aggression in the spring when they have a small calf and the males can be territorial and more aggressive in the fall during the rut. Without knowing more details it is hard to know why the Moose ran towards you with out more details.

  2. Posted January 18, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    This makes perfect sense! we saw a moose today! Is it normal for them to charge when protecting their offspring? Because one charged at us.. it was to dark to tell if it was a female or a male however.

  3. Andy
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I have a small calf moose come to my backyard three days. It is three weeks old or maybe four. It came right up to me and stayed with me for more then an hour. It tried to go near the roadway but I carried it up and back to the trees behind my property. It weight about forty or more lbs. There’s no mother around for her to go to. She eating on her own. She’s staying on my property just behind my house. I check on her in the evenings and everything is doing ok. I don’t want to get to close because now she wants to come and frolic around me. Do you thinks some other moose will take her as a surrogate and look after her. I even have a picture of me and her licking my hand, hoping for the best.

    • Posted June 19, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Hello Andy-

      How special that this moose calf has found you! I would recommend reporting it to the DNR. They may be able to help this young moose survive into adulthood.

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