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Moose: A Northern Herbivore

By Edited Aug 20, 2015 0 0

Moose

Scientific Name: Alces Alces

 

Bull Moose

 As I stared at this immense animal outside my house in Soldotna AK I felt both amazed and intimidated by it.  I was looking at the calf of a cow calf moose pair.  Its mother was off about 30 yards away from me and about 15 yards from the calf that I was entranced with.  Despite my better judgement I decided to approach the calf, mainly because I wanted to touch it.  I slowly approached and got within 5 yards of the calf who was now very interested in me   Up until then its mother had not been

paying much attention to me but now I unfortunately had attracted it.  It took a step towards me on those incredibly long legs and I froze in place.  I was concerned about the mamma moose but I so wanted to get closer to her baby.  I took a hesitant step forward and her ears went down, which I had always been told signified that she was a wee bit upset with me. The calf was so close so I reached out with my hand to touch its coat and that was the last straw for Mamma.  She charged at me those long legs eating up distance at a incredible rate.  As soon as I saw her intent I turned around and bolted back to the safety of my house never looking back. 

 

Physical Traits:

It is easy to say that moose are big but until you are confronted with one like I was in my story above you can't really appreciate it.  Moose can range in weight from the 1200-1400 lb  Alaskan moose cow that I crossed paths with down to 500-800 lb "Shiras" moose found in the southern part of its range.  They can get up 6.5 feet at the shoulder with most of that being leg.  The long legs of a moose give it this aura of being much bigger and taller than it really is.  They will live up 15-20 years in the wild and will have coats of various colors ranging from browns to almost black depending on where they are from.  Moose that live in dark forested areas will be darker in color while moose with lighter hair will inhabit more open regions.  Scientists believe this is related to sun exposure with the lighter hair color being caused by the sun.  The males will grow the large antlers that can be seen above in the picture at the top.  These antlers like others in the Deer family will grow in size and complexity as the bull moose gets older.  Both sexes will also have a bell which is a bag and rope like structure of flesh hanging from the bottom of their jaw.  Scientists believe that this bell is used to spread scent, especially during the rut.       

 

Habitat & Range:

Moose will live in two types of habitat, their permanent habitat and transition habitat.  Permanent habitat is usually found along streams and lakes in the northern plains and boreal forests.  This habitat is created and maintained by the annual flood cycles that scour away old vegetation and trees which causes a flush of new growth of plants like willows, dogwoods, sedges, herbs and aquatic vegetation found in shallow lakes.  This habitat however covers a relatively small range of the total moose habitat.  The larger transition habitat is created in the boreal forests when fire burns through the area.  This fire acts in much the same way as the flood removing the old vegetation and releasing nutrients that cause a flush of new tender growth.  This habitat is utilized until the forest begins to reclaim the burned out sections and the moose then move on to other more suitable habitat.  

Moose Range

The range of moose is quite vast encompassing large portions of the northern latitudes.  With the range extending from Alaska to Siberia the moose is a world wide animal and a opportunistic traveler and inhabitor of new areas.  The moose range has been extended due to human transplants as well in the United States this has been done in the western states such as Utah and Colorado.

 

Reproduction:

Moose like other members of the Deer family go through a reproductive phase called the rut.  This is a time period typically in the fall when the moose will cast off there solitary ways and come together in order to produce the next generation.  By the first weeks of September the cows and bulls have found each other and after the courtship is completed copulation begins.  The cows are polyestrous which means they will go through several fertility cycles

Moose Cow Nursing Calf
which will stop either when she is bred or the season gets to to late.  If the cow is succesful at breeding the gestation period is on average 231 days with the calves being born in the last week of May to the first week of June.  The calves will typically weigh 22-35 lbs at birth but will gain around 4.4 lbs per day reaching a weight up to 330 lbs in just 5 months.  The calves will stay with the cows until the spring of the following year at which the cows will typically drive them off in order to prepare for the next breeding cycle.  Cows have been known to retake yearlings if they lose the new calf or are unable to breed.    

 

Status in the World: 

Moose in North American currently enjoy a heyday in their population and status among humans of this continent.  They are protected on the continents wildlife reserves and national parks and by many wildlife regulations.  Moose will thrive wherever humans have a use for them whether that be providing hunting or sightseeing opportunities or even domestication for use on the farm or ranch.  However moose would be hard pressed to survive without the good will of humans.  Without the protections we provide them this large and conspicuous herbivore could quickly be over utilized and exterminated.  So if moose are something you take pleasure in seeing or eating then be sure to speak up for them if a moose issue comes up locally or nationally.

JPLarson

 

Sources:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Moose_distribution.png

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moose_superior.jpg

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/moose/

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Moose_calves_nursing.jpg

Geist, Valerius. Moose: Behavior, Ecology, Conservation. Stillwater : Voyageur Press Inc., 1999. Print.

 Disclaimer:

None of the organizations or photo's I used in the writing of this article support my position on moose.

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