Table of Contents
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Cervidae
- Subfamily: Capreolinae
- Genus: Alces
- Species: Alces alces
What is Moose?
The moose belong to the family of deer and are considered as largest living species of the deer family. It is native to boreal forests across Canada that also found in the United States, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
The general characteristic features of male adult moose, or bulls include broad and flat palmate antlers that differ from most of the members of the deer family who comprise twig-like dendritic antlers.
After the mating season of bulls (in autumn they shed their antlers and in spring they grow a new pair to prepare for mating once again. Based on the distributions and physical features, moose are classified into 9 subspecies.
Among which, the Alaskan moose is the largest subspecies and Shira’s moose or the Yellowstone moose is the smallest subspecies. At higher latitudes and colder regions, the size of moose is comparatively larger than moose occurs in lower latitudes and warmer regions.
Moose have generally thick skin and double-layered fur, consisting of a soft woolly undercoat and a top layer of long guard hairs. These adaptations provide them extra insulation and help to live in cold climates. Another adaptation is the larger size of moose living in a cold climate that reduces surface area to volume ratio to reduce heat loss.
However, they cannot tolerate the warmer climate therefore they seek out shade or cool breezes and immerse themselves in cold water during summer. The foraging activity of moose reduces due to heat stress and also causes a decline in pregnancy rates, increases the risk of disease and hypothermia.
Moose Behaviour and Ecology
They are herbivores animals that feed upon leaves and fruits but they do not graze like other grazers and prefer non-grasses, like soft shoots, and fruits of high-growing woody plants. They prefer the newly growing deciduous trees consisting of high sugar content such as white birch, aspen, and willow.
They also feed on aquatic plants such as lilies and pondweed. The mating season of moose occurs in September and October, which is called the rut. During this period they gather in groups but besides this period they rarely gather and live solely thus considered as solitary animals.
Bulls stop feeding for two weeks during this period, which is perhaps due to hormonal changes that also result in scent-urinating and other rutting behaviors. During a single mating season, the bull seeks to mate with multiple females that result in competition between males.
In that condition, males show their dominance over others based on their antlers and body size, sometimes it also escalates into physical fights if neither retreats. Cows follow an eight-month gestation period and gave birth to a single calf weighing around 30 pounds.
Sometimes twins can also produce in a condition of plentiful food occurrence. The new born moose have a red tint that fades away with maturation and comprises brown fur like their parents. They begin their solitary lifestyle after one year of birth.
The predators of moose include the Siberian tiger that feeds upon adult moose in the Russian Far East, gray wolf packs and brown bears in North America also preys on adults, American black bears and cougars bear threat to new born calves. Sometimes while swimming, they are also killed by killer whales on America’s northwest coast.
Fun Facts About Moose
Their swimming ability with their huge antlers, adaptations are interesting facts about moose.
Handicapped Moose Males
Moose are polygamous animals that mean they seek to mate with more than one female. On the other hand, females are choosy and mate with few males. Females use antler size and other physical cues to assess the dominance and prefer to mate with the dominant male.
Antlers are costly to produce and carry thus they honestly indicate the health of the male. The male with big antlers must be fit and healthy. The peacock’s tail is another indicator of male health, which significantly handicaps the male’s ability to fly.
Moose: a Keen Swimmer
Despite their bulk, moose are excellent swimmers that can swim several miles at a time. The hollow guard hairs provide them buoyancy that makes them able to stay afloat during swimming. They are the only deer species that are able to feed underwater and also able to dive over 18 feet deep to reach food (plants).
Moose evolve special fatty pads and muscles in their nose. When water pressure is high, the nostrils close and in this way, they can hold their breath underwater for 30 seconds. Besides moose, some other animals have also adapted themselves to take advantage of both land and aquatic resources, for example, elephants, which can swim up to 31 miles. Similarly, sloths and tigers have also accomplished swimmers.
A dewlap or bell is a long fold of skin under the chin of a male and female moose. In the case of lizards and birds, it is suggested that it helps in sexual selection but the evolutionary function of dewlap is unknown. Usually, males consist of larger dewlaps than females that are used for attraction. It has been hypothesized that in moose, the dewlaps of males help in olfactory signaling to females, or are used as antlers to show dominance.
- A review of the “mysterious” wasting disease in Swedish moose (Alces alces L.) related to molybdenosis and disturbances in copper metabolism. Biol Trace Elem Res . Winter 2004;102(1-3):143-59.
- Moose and other large animal wildlife vehicle collisions: implications for prevention and emergency care. J Emerg Nurs . 2004 Dec;30(6):542-7.
- Seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in domestic pigs, sheep, cattle, wild boars, and moose in the Nordic-Baltic region: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Parasite Epidemiol Control . 2019 Mar 4;5:e00100.