Deer Family (Cervidae)
Measurement: Size: 250-300 cm/180 cm at the shoulder Weight: 450-475 kg
Description: The largest member of the deer family, the moose is a truly northern animal. It is dark brown with long legs and a very long nose. The shoulder has a large hump, and there is often a dangling bit of hair under the chin (dewlap). Antlers in the male are immense, spreading outward like two large plates with sharp tines extending beyond the plate margin. A large set of antlers can stretch almost 2 m (6 ft), and weigh 30 kg (66 lbs).
Thriving in the winter climates of Canada, it can be found from coast to coast. In the United States, the wintry environments of the Rockies has allowed the moose to extend southward to take advantage of deep snow packs and plentiful forage. In recent years, moose populations have sharply declined in Banff National Park. Wardens believe that this may be partially due to the urbanization of elk and deer populations which brings increased pressure from predators that would normally select these smaller deer. This is further complicated by the health problems caused by the liver fluke which is often fatal for moose, while rarely killing elk.
Moose are true browsers, feeding on a combination of twigs, stems and buds over the winter The word 'moose' is actually and Algonkian Indian term translating literally to 'twig-eater'. During summer, they also show a preference for aquatic plants where available.
Moose, like other deer mate in the fall, with the rutting season running through September and into early-October. They do not acquire harems like elk, but rather marks his territory using urine, scent posts, and wallows. Rival males are challenged, and receptive females are mated with. Bull moose will wait several weeks for a cow to come into season if she is not ready when first encountered. The cow will give birth in the spring, after a gestation of 226-264 days. Often, she will swim out to an island to give birth, later swimming back with the calf in tow.
Notes: No other member of the deer family is as well adapted to northern climes than the moose. In winter, when food is scarce and the quality is poor, moose are able to lower their body temperatures to reduce the amount of food required to stoke their large furnace. In addition, their long legs allow them to move effortlessly through very deep snow. Mule and white-tail deer movement is hampered by even shallow snowpacks.
a guide to help you spot some
All Material © Ward Cameron 2005