Bull Moose

Moose (Alces alces)(Photographs below text.)

In North America the Moose is the largest member of the deer family. In Europe they are known as Eurasian Elk, but they are the same animal. In North America the name Elk belongs to a totally different animal also known as Wapiti (Cervus canadensis)

The moose is the largest member of the deer family, and stands taller at the shoulder than the largest saddle horse. It has long, slim legs with divided, or cloven, hooves that are often more than 18 centimetres long. The moose gets its humped appearance from its deep and incredibly muscled shoulders. It is also low-rumped, has slender hindquarters and a stubby tail. The moose’s head is heavy and long, with an overhanging, flexible upper lip. Its ears are slightly smaller than those of a mule. Most moose have something called a bell—a piece of fur-covered skin about 30 centimetres long that hangs from their throats.


Moose live on the margins of lakes, muskegs and streams of the boreal forest, on the rocky, wooded hillsides of the western mountain ranges and now even northward through the transition forest that extends to the open tundra. Moose can be found in Canadian forests from the eastern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador to the border of Alaska. In the wintertime, they occupy forests that have reduced snow levels. Moose are also moving into areas where they were not previously found, like north-central Ontario and the southern part of British Columbia. In the early 1900s, a few pairs of moose were put on the island of Newfoundland and the populations are now quite large.

More isolated groups have been verified as far south as the mountains of Utah and Colorado and as far west as the Lake Wenatchee area of the Washington Cascades. The range includes Wyoming. Montana, Idaho, and smaller areas of Washington and Oregon. In 1978, a few breeding pairs were reintroduced in western Colorado, and the state’s moose population is now more than 1,000.

The moose is a herbivore and is capable of consuming many types of plant or fruit. The average adult moose needs to consume 9,770 kcal (40.9 MJ) per day to maintain its body weight. Much of a moose’s energy is derived from terrestrial vegetation. Mainly consisting of forbs (grasses, sedges and rushes) and other non-grasses, and fresh shoots from trees such as willow and Birch. These plants are rather low in sodium, and moose generally need to consume a good quantity of aquatic plants. While much lower in energy, these plants provide the moose with its sodium requirements, and as much as half of their diet usually consists of aquatic plant life. In winter, moose are often drawn to roadways, to lick salt that is used as a snow and ice melter. A typical moose, weighing 360 kg (790 lb), can eat up to 32 kg (71 lb) of food per day.

Physical Characteristics

The male’s antlers grow as cylindrical beams projecting on each side of the head at right angles to the midline of the skull, and then fork. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening. The male will drop its antlers after the mating season and conserve energy for the winter. A new set of antlers will then regrow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastest growing animal organs. They initially have a layer of skin, called “velvet,” which is shed once the antlers become fully grown. Immature bulls may not shed their antlers for the winter, but retain them until the following spring.

On average, an adult moose stands 1.4–2.1 m (4.6–6.9 ft) high at the shoulder, which is more than a foot higher than the next largest deer on average, the Elk. Bulls weigh 380–700 kg (840–1,500 lb) and cows typically weigh 200–360 kg (440–790 lb). The head-and-body length is 2.4–3.2 m (7.9–10 ft), with the vestigial tail adding only a further 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in).

The largest of all the races is the Alaskan subspecies (A. a. gigas), which can stand over 2.1 m (7 ft) at the shoulder, has a span across the antlers of 1.8 m (6 ft) and averages 634.5 kg (1,396 lbs) in males and 478 kg (1,052 lbs) in females.

Typically, however, the antlers of a mature bull are between 1.2 m (3.9 ft) and 1.5 m (4.9 ft). The largest confirmed size for this species was a bull shot at the Yukon River in September 1897 that weighed 820 kg (1,800 lb) and measured 2.33 m (7.6 ft) high at the shoulder. There have been reported cases of even larger moose, including a bull that reportedly scaled 1,180 kg (2,600 lb), but none are authenticated and may not be considered reliable. Behind only the bison, the moose is the second largest land animal in both North America and Europe.

References: Wikipedia, Canadian Geographic.