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Home / Hunting / Game Guide / Hoofed Mammals / Moose

HUNTING
FIELD GUIDE

Hoofed Mammals
Moose
Alces alces

Description

The largest cervid in the world; horse-size. Long, dark brown hair. High, humped shoulders; long, slender legs; tail inconspicuous. Huge pendulous muzzle; large dewlap under chin; large ears. Male much larger than female, with massive palmate antlers, broadly flattened. Antler spread usually 4–5' (1.2–1.5 m); record 6' 9" (2.06 m). Calf light-colored but not spotted. Ht 6'5"–7' 5" (1.95–2.25 m); L 6' 9"–9' 2" (2.06–2.79 m); T 6 3/4" (17 cm); HF 28–30" (73–83.5 cm); Wt male 900–1,400 lb (400–635 kg), female 700–1,100 lb (315–500 kg). Similar Species Elk has yellowish rump patches and tail, and lacks huge, pendulous muzzle and dewlap.

Breeding

Mates mid-September through late October; after gestation of 8 months, 1 or 2 calves born late May–early June. Newborn weighs 24–35 lb (11–16 kg).

Habitat

Spruce forest, swamps, and aspen and willow thickets.

Range

Most of Canada; in the East south to Maine, Minnesota, and Isle Royale in Lake Superior; in the West, Alaska, n British Columbia, and southeast through Rocky Mountains to ne Utah and nw Colorado.

Discussion

Migrating seasonally up and down mountain slopes, the Moose is solitary in summer, but several may gather near streams and lakes to feed. A good swimmer, the Moose can move in the water at a speed of 6 mph (10 km/h) for a period of up to two hours. At times, the animal may be completely submerged for many seconds. When black flies and mosquitoes torment it, the Moose may nearly submerge itself or roll in a wallow to acquire a protective coating of mud. In winter, the Moose may herd, packing down snow to facilitate movement. Winter herding is not social behavior; rather, the Moose are congregating in favorable habitat. Despite its ungainly appearance, this animal can run through the forest quietly at speeds up to 35 mph (55 km/h). A bull’s antlers begin growing in March, attain full growth by August, and are shed by breaking or falling off at the pedicel between December and February. The male uses his antlers to thrash brush (probably to mark territory), to threaten and fight for mates, and to root plants from the pond floor. The shedding of the velvet from its antlers, often described as "dripping velvet," is a spectacular sight. The summer diet of the Moose is willows and aquatic vegetation, including the leaves of water lilies. In winter, it browses on woody plants, including the twigs, buds, and bark of willow, balsam, aspen, dogwood, birch, cherry, maple, and viburnum. The Moose loses weight in winter and gains in summer. Vocalizations include the bull’s tremendous bellow, and also "croaks" and "barks" during the rut. The cow has a long, quavering moan, which ends in a cough-like moo-agh, and also a grunt used in gathering the young. The bull rushes through the forest looking for grunting cows and challenging rival bulls with bellows. It does not gather a harem, but vies for females; it stages mock fights, circling and threatening another male. As with most cervids, either bull can avoid a fight by withdrawing. Occasionally bulls battle, but generally, threat displays prompt one animal to withdraw; if horns interlock, both may perish. Fights include antler-pushing back and forth. If one male falls, he may be hit in the ribs or the flank. The cow is passive during all this activity, until only one bull remains. He will then mate with her over a one- to two-day period, then move on to find another cow. During mating season, a bull in rut urinates and then rolls in the wallow he creates; cows also roll in it. The newborn calf can stand up the first day; within a couple of weeks, it can swim. It is weaned at about six months, and just before the birth of new calves, the mother drives it off.The life span of the Moose is up to 20 years. Wolves are the main predator, but are extirpated from much of the Moose’s range. The Moose is unpredictable and can be dangerous. It is normally a retiring animal and avoids human contact, but a cow with calves is irritable and fiercely protective, and rutting bulls occasionally have charged people, horses, cars, and even trains.

Track

Moose Track Cloven prints similar to those of Elk but larger, more pointed; usually more than 5" (125 mm) long; may be 6" (150 mm) long and 4 1/2" (115 mm) wide in a large bull. Lobes somewhat splayed in snow or mud, or when running. Dewclaws often print behind main prints in snow or mud, or when running, lengthening print to 10" (250 mm). Stride 3' 9"–5' 5" (1.15–1.65 m) when walking, more than 8' (2.4 m) when trotting or running.

Sign

Browse raggedly torn; thrashed shrubs and trees stripped of bark. May produce a browse line on young conifers in winter. Browsed stems lack clean cut left by rabbits and rodents. Gnaws bark from young trees, especially aspens. Bed: Often leaves sleeping beds of flattened vegetation, similar to those of other cervids; marked by tracks and droppings. Wallows: Cleared depressions in ground, 4' (1.2 m) wide, 4' (1.2 m) long, 3–4" (75–100 mm) deep; muddy, smelling of urine, marked with tracks. Scat: Chips or masses when feeding on aquatic plants and lush grasses. Pellets, more oblong than Elk's, 1 1/2–1 3/4" (40–45 mm) long, sometimes round, when feeding on woody browse. Pale, resembling compressed sawdust, when feeding on woody winter browse. Trails: Wider and deeper than those of smaller cervids; Moose are more likely to detour around obstructions.

 

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