What Do You Know About Moose?
Avid hunter or not, perhaps you may have come across this deer once or twice. These mammals, known as alces americanus in scientific terms, are the largest existing species in the deer family.
Their physical appearance is characterized by their long legs and long head leading to a long flexible nose and upper lip. They also have a dewlap of skin at the throat. Their fur is thick and brown, ranging from light to dark in places. Individual hairs grow to between 6 and 10 inches, providing the animals with adequate insulation.
Males can weigh between 800 and 1,320 pounds, while females come in at 600 to 880 pounds. Height wise, adults can grow up to 7.5 foot high. Furthermore, a bull’s antlers can grow to an impressive 6.5 foot in width.
These are no gentle, easy beasts to attempt to hunt. Despite their size, they are fast and able to flee at a moment’s notice. As such, it would be useful to be aware of their range of senses, such as their nocturnal capabilities and strong eyesight, to give you a slight upper hand.
The species is susceptible to tiny parasitic brain worms that can pass from a mother to her calf. In a strange, spine-chilling cycle, the worms get passed out through their systems where they become land snails. The cycle comes full circle however, when the snails in question may be ingested while the animals are foraging.
What do these worms mean for moose? Well, they may cause neurological diseases that present symptoms such as loss of coordination, depression, or blindness, amongst others.
Rutting is the word used to describe the mating process of deer. The autumn months are a season for reproductive rituals, as they shake off their solitude in favor of powerful battles for breeding rights and a mate.
During this time, fighting can last for hours. Bulls frequently suffer minor or fatal injuries during these battles, and the sound of clashing antlers is can be heard from afar. Some walk away stronger, while others lose bits of hair or pieces of their antlers.
As the males are polygamous, they will mate with several females during the season.
Luckily for the bulls, they shed their antlers every season after mating. They do this to conserve energy for the winter. In the spring a new pair grows back to restore them to their former glory. Antlers take just 3 to 5 months to grow back. Young bulls might not shed their antlers, and cows generally do not grow any.
Mother and Calf
The gestation for these animals is 8 months. A female moose, known as a cow, will give birth to a single calf at a time. However, if the food has been plentiful, they may produce twins. Calves are born in May or June every year.
A calf will stay with its mother for about 18 months until the time when she begins estrus and chases away young bulls. During the 18 months, calves grow alongside their mothers before they wander off to live their own life of solitude. Unlike other deer species, moose are solitary. That said, you may see them in groups during the mating season.
Cows are serious protectors of their young. With a combination of powerful kicks and stamina, they have enough strength to kill any nearby predators. They can even break the odd bone of their victims.
Should you be ready to get your hunt moving along or tracking underway, you will probably be wondering where you can best find these mammals. They are most often found in cooler Northern climate areas, particularly in the snowy regions.
They have a very low tolerance for heat as their bodies are unable to sweat. In the summer months, they live close to streams where they can easily get in to cool off.
Their natural response to the intense warmer weather results in them suffering from heat stress and a loss of weight. As opposed to the would-be healthier move to seek out nutritious foods, these animals retreat to the nearest shelter in such conditions. Although they may certainly be a little cooler, their health takes a definite toll as a result.
Like all deer, moose are browsers and herbivores. Their sustenance is found through their grazing efforts on leaves, twigs, pinecones, and tree bark. In addition to these, should any aquatic plants be lying around, they quite enjoy those too.
As the largest of the deer family, it makes sense that they eat large amounts to make up for their bulk.
Moose often sleep on their feet, although they do lay on the ground as well. In general, laying on the ground with a big set of antlers can be problematic though. If standing, they may rest against a tree.
When sleeping while standing, their ears stay alert and roving so that they are aware of their surroundings. They do, however, relax their head and neck to get comfortable.
A bedded animal, or one that is lying down, will either have their legs fully extended to the side while they lay on the ground. Alternatively, they insert their legs beneath their bodies and sleep in this position.
To get up again, they will first raise their haunches followed by the front portion of their body.
It is not unknown to occasionally see moose in residential areas in search of food as many of them have been impacted by the surrounding environmental degradation. During their search, they move from area to area and this can land them in built-up areas.
If this happens, moose are not typically aggressive unless stressed out. They may charge if they feel threatened so it is best to give them a wide berth and call the authorities. Remember that despite their hefty size, they can move quickly.
They are truly at home in nature, something that is also revealed through their swimming habits. Aside from the general ability to being able to swim, their capability extends to far more than just a light swim. The animals are strong swimmers and able to hold their breath underwater for up to 30 seconds.
If you want to learn more about moose and how they move around the area they live, you could consider purchasing a camera to monitor them. Set it up on a well-known trail or swimming spot, and you can record and view footage of the animal in its natural environment.
As we mentioned, moose are generally very solitary animals. Besides the 18 months that a cow and her calf share, they are relatively antisocial.
However, they do tend to emerge and come together for the rutting and mating season. Lasting from August up until the start of October, the rut occurs following a summer of feeding for up to 13 hours at a time, rearing calves, and a shiny new coat developing.
A moose will typically live for up to 25 years, with those in the wild having a shorter lifespan. Cows tend to outlive the bulls, the latter having lifespans that edge towards 20. Bulls remain in their prime until about the age of 11 years.
With adequate food, low threat risk from predators, and mild weather, the species can thrive.
When one bull comes across another it feels threatened by, they will lock their antlers and begin a rather lengthy, sometimes painful fight. This happens particularly in the autumn months when the annual mating season rolls around.
Not only do they use their antlers against other bulls, but they also form part of a moose’s battle tactics when face to face with hungry predators such as wolves and bears. Note that the latter is more likely to take over a wolf kill than hunt moose themselves. Naturally, calves are an easier target as well.
Learning To Spar
In a display of youth, young bulls tend to spar one another for practice. Towards the end of August right until the start of winter, these mammals gently spar one another, meshing their antlers together in a process of learning about fighting and identifying one’s rivals.
How to Attract a Mate
As with most animals, there always comes a point where one needs to mark its territory. Bulls will use their front hooves to dig a small pit. They then urinate in this pit before dousing themselves with the soil-urine mixture on their antlers and neck.
Admittedly, although it doesn’t sound like the most appealing scent, this is what attracts the cows. They immerse themselves in these pits, the reason being that the chemicals in the bull’s urine spurs their fertility.
Relationship To Elk
Before we end off, we thought to clarify the relationship that moose have with elk. The latter are close relatives and part of the moose family, although they originate from Eurasia.
We hope you have found this article informative. It is certainly a special moment to see this majestic animal, so we hope that equipped with your knowledge and game camera, you will see first hand just how impressive they are.