Moose can be found throughout much of the northern coniferous forest regions of Alaska, Maine, western Montana, northern Idaho, western Wyoming, Canada, and the northern Great Lakes, including Minnesota.
The moose is the largest member of the deer family. Adult male moose can grow to be 8–10 feet from head to tail, stand 4–7 feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh 1,500 pounds. Females are smaller, around 800–900 pounds. In summer their coat is dark brown and black, with lighter underparts; the winter coat is gray. Their hooves are 6–7 inches long. Moose have a broad, overhanging muzzle, massive antlers, a heavy mane, and a pendulant flap of skin beneath the throat called a bell or dewlap. The male’s bell is a little longer than the female’s bell. Moose seem to not be able to see very well, but their senses of hearing and smell are acute. Male moose grow antlers starting in early spring and shed them in January and February.
Habits and Adaptations
Moose have long, slim legs that allow them to walk through deep snow and fallen trees. When they walk, the hooves spread, helping support the moose in marshy areas and deep snow. The front hooves are larger than the back. Moose are strong swimmers.
While moose have no teeth in the upper front of their jaw, the upper lip is extremely flexible and muscular. To eat, they grab leaves with their upper lip, press the lip against the bottom teeth, and pull the leaves off the plant.
Moose are most active at daybreak or dusk. Moose are sometimes found in groups of three to four individuals, usually a mother and her young. They gather in larger groups in the winter.
Eat and Be Eaten
New growth of shrubs and trees, especially aspen, willow, and maple, makes good browse. They also wade into lakes and streams to feed on water plants. Moose will eat bark and twigs when food is scarce. A moose can eat 30–40 pounds of food a day during summer. The main nonhuman predators of moose are wolves and bears.
Moose mate in September or October. After 242–250 days, one to three calves are born (usually late May or June). The young, called calves, are reddish-brown; unlike most young deer, they are not spotted. Calves are weaned at 6-8 weeks but remain with their mother for up to two years.