Moose tend to be loners, except for cows when they have calves. Adult bulls occasionally form temporary aggregations following the rut in autumn.
As the largest member of North America’s deer family, the moose is unforgettable, whether viewed from a distance or especially when encountered up close. Its sheer size commands respect. Its uniqueness makes it a curiosity.
Moose are dark brown and long-legged with massive shoulders. They have prominent muzzles with an overhanging upper lip, and a large flap of hair-covered skin that hangs beneath the throat called a “bell” or a dewlap. Adult males, or bulls; have broad, flat, palmated antlers tipped with a number of points, depending on age and health. Yearling males have forked antlers and by about five years of age the familiar palmated rack has developed. Antlers are shed during the winter and regrown each spring.
length: from nose to tail up to 10 feet (3m) long; height: to the should up to 7.5 feet (2.2m); antler rack: up to 6 feet (1.8 m) across
males: up to 1,000 pounds (453 kg), females: up to 900 pounds (408 kg)
Generally moose prefer forested habitat where there are lakes, marshes, and other wetlands. They have a circumpolar distribution around the world. Moose have expanded their geographic range in some states, but most locations include cold winters with seasonal snow cover. This is due in part to their large bodies; moose prefer temperatures below 60ºF in summer and below 32ºF in winter. With its great size and forage demands, the home range of the average moose in any given season is approximately three to six square miles, although they habitually wander much further.
The name for moose came from a Native American tribe, the Algonquin, and translates to “twig eater.” This is an appropriate name as these animals predominately consume twigs, bark, and leaves of trees.
SIGNS OF PRESENCE:
Despite their massive size, moose are very quiet animals and it is possible to hike upon one accidentally. The clearest signs of moose presence include piles of scat, tracks and prints, as well as any peeling velvet left in the trees from their racks. If you suddenly come upon a moose, try not to startle the animal. Moose are prone to be very quick to attack in large part because they do not have good eyesight. Due to their poor eyesight, they have a tendency to charge at barking dogs and any humans that make sudden gestures. Though they can run very quickly in short burts, it is best to keep a tree or any large objects between you and the moose. Begin leaving the area as quickly as possible, keeping as many objects between you and the moose.
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept.
National Park Service
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
Paul Tarwell, “Camping & Wilderness Survival Second Edition” (Lebanon, New Hampshire: Paul Tarwell, 2006).
Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
World Worldlife Federation