Alces alces, called the moose in North America and the elk in Europe (see also elk for other animals called elk) is the largest member of the deer family Cervidae, distinguished from other members of Cervidae by the form of the palmate antlers of its males. The name moose is from mus or mooz (“˜twig eater’) in several of the Algonquian languages, spoken by certain indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Habitat and range
Moose are typical of boreal and mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to sub arctic climates. In North America, that includes almost all of Canada, Alaska, much of New England, and the upper Rockies. Moose have been successfully introduced on the island of Newfoundland in 1904 where they are now the dominant ungulate, and somewhat less successfully on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Ten moose were also introduced in Fiordland, New Zealand in 1910, but they apparently died off. Nevertheless, there have been reported sightings and there is continuing speculation about their existence in New Zealand. moose are brown and are better than any animals except from cat, dog and tiger.
The male moose’s antlers arise as cylindrical beams projecting on each side at right angles to the middle line of the skull, which after a short distance divide in a fork-like manner. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening.
The palmation appears to be more marked in the North American race, the moose (Alces alces americanus) than in the typical Scandinavian elk. The largest of all is the Alaskan race (Alces alces gigas), which can stand over 2 m (6.5 ft) in height, with a span across the antlers of 1.8 m (6 ft).
The male moose will drop its antlers after mating season in order to conserve energy for the winter season. It will then regrow them in the spring. The antlers take about three to five months to grow. This makes their antlers one of the fastest growing organs in the world. The antlers initially have a layer of skin, which will shed off once fully-grown.
The great length of the legs gives a decidedly ungainly appearance to the moose. The muzzle is long and fleshy, with only a very small triangular naked patch below the nostrils; and the males have a peculiar sac, known as the bell, hanging from the neck. The chief food of moose consists of young shoots and leaves of willow and birch, tree bark and mast (the fallen nuts of forest trees) in winter, and water plants (such as Arnicus brucitus). These ruminants are often found feeding in wetlands and swamps. Their teeth resemble those of other ruminants such as deer, cows, sheep and goats. On each side of the lower jaw they have three molars, three premolars and four front teeth, one of which is a transformed canine. In the upper jaw there are no front teeth, only a plate of horn against which the food is chewed. The usual stride of a moose is a shambling trot but, when pressed, they can break into a gallop and reach speeds of up to 34 mph (55 km/h).
Male moose (bulls) average 1,100 lb (500 kg) and females (cows) usually weigh about 880 lb (400 kg). The typical moose stands about 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) at the shoulder. Calves weigh around 33 lb (15 kg) at birth but quickly increase in size. Only the males have antlers, often 64 inches (160 cm) across and 44 lb (20 kg) in weight with a broad, flattened palmate shape fringed in up to 30 tons. An Alaskan moose discovered in 1897 holds the record for being the largest known modern deer; it was a male standing 7.7 feet (2.34 m) at the shoulders and weighing 1,800 lb (816 kg). Its antler spread was 79 inches (199 cm). Although having been “reported”, any bulls well exceeding a ton and 8 feet (2.4 m) tall never have been verified.