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Moose Alces alces


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Moose, male
credit: USDA Forest Service

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Family: Cervidae, Deer view all from this family

Description Largest deer, and one of the largest land mammals in North America. Elongated head with pendulous snout, unique hanging dewlap, and huge rotatable ears that provide an excellent sense of hearing. Upper lip marked by small rectangular bare spot. Long legs gray at bottom. Heavy body with humped shoulders and a small tail. Light brown to black body color from guard hairs over gray undercoat that provide ample protection from cold, snowy winters. Male is larger than the female and bears enormous palmate antlers (largest in the world) that are grown in summer and shed in winter. Most females have white hair around vulva. Juvenile pelage is reddish.

Dimensions 2.4-3.1m, 8-12cm, 360-600kg; / 2.3-3.0m, 8-12cm, 270-400kg

Habitat Swamps, marshes & bogs, Forests & woodlands

Range Plains, Great Lakes, New England, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, Alaska

Discussion Recently recognized as a distinct species from the Eurasian A. alces. Large size and a total population size of around a million means considerable ecological impact, both as browser and as prey. Mostly solitary; herbivorous; active any time, especially dusk and dawn, and most of its activity is dedicated to foraging for the 65kg of plant food that its stomach can hold. Keen sense of smell allows them to locate food beneath the snow, but vision is not as acute. Vocalizations in the early fall rut include deep grunts and moos. Mud wallows marked by large tracks; most antler rubs on vegetation are higher (100-200cm) than deer (less than 115cm). Recently reintroduced in Colorado and northern Michigan. Can be seen cooling themselves in ponds and lakes, or standing in the shade, where they are often unwary but can be dangerous up-close; abundant in northern boreal forests, especially wet areas, and limited to cool regions where temperatures do not exceed 27C.