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The moose is the largest member of the deer family. They live in the forests, tundra, and marshlands of Europe, North America, and Asia.
The moose is dark brown. The back slopes down because of the huge shoulder muscles needed to support its enormous head and antlers. Under the neck of the bull is a dewlap of skin that sways as the moose moves. This is called the bell. Moose have keen hearing, excellent smell, and average eyesight. The long legs are like stilts in water and deep snow. The huge feet steady the enormous body in water, mud, snow, and frozen ground.
Males grow huge palmated antlers (not horns) which are shed after the winter rut. The new antlers start to grow immediately and can have 18 to 20 points. By fall, the antlers are hard, and the moose is ready to spar with other males for the right to mate with nearby cows. They are very vocal and bellow during the breeding season. During the mating season bulls can be very dangerous, and it does not take much to get them angry.
Moose love the water and feed on aquatic plants. They eat water lilies, duckweed, and reeds. In the winter, moose browse in marshy forests and tundra, feeding on trees and plants.
Moose are solitary for the most part but sometimes form small groups. The moose may live out its entire life on 500 to 1,000 acres. Moose can run for miles and have been clocked at 35 miles (56 km) per hour trotting. In full gallop on easy terrain, they can run 45 miles (72 km) per hour. Swift water doesn’t matter to a moose. They simply plunge in and swim.
A cow moose has one calf (sometimes two) after a gestation period of eight to nine months. The mother keeps her calf hidden for about ten days until it can safely follow her. Baby moose look very much out of proportion with their long shaky legs. They are red-brown, weighing about 25 pounds (11 kg). They can be easy targets for wolves, bear, and lynx. The young mature in two to three years.
Moose were very important to the early settlers and explorers as a major addition to their winter food supply. Today, thousands of pounds of moose meat are harvested annually. Outfitting and guiding businesses have also made the moose a very important part of the North Country, where trophy hunting is a major sport. Because of the vast area that the moose inhabits, its population is surveyed regularly. Present population estimates are 300,000 to 500,000.
Artiodactyla • Cervidae • Alces alces.
Height: 8 feet (2.4 m) at the shoulders
Weight: 1,315 pounds (595 kg)
Length: 10 feet (3 m)
Life Span: 20 years
Special Design Feature: The long legs of the moose are like stilts in the water and deep snow. Its huge feet steady its enormous body in mud, snow, and water.
Did You Know? The moose is the largest member of the deer family.