Moose Information

Alaskan Species

(Alces alces gigas)

The sounds of a large Bull Moose in pursuit of a Cow in estrus will be heard as you read this information.

Order: Artiodactyla (even-toed hooved animals)

Family: Cervidae (deer)

Body: Moose are the largest members of the deer family and the Alaskan species is the largest of all moose. They are 8 to 10 feet long and can stand from 4.5 to eight 8 tall athe the shoulder. A healthy male (bull) can weigh 1200 to 1600 pounds, while a female (cow) can weigh 800 to 1300 pounds. Coloration of hair can range from pale yellow to black depending on the animals age and the season. They shed their winter coats in the spring and often white or gray underhairs become visible. Moose have small tails and have a large "bell" or dewlap under their chins. Only the bulls have antlers and they shed them each year usually in December or January. The largest antlers are generally seen in moose 10 to 12 years of age. Racks have been known to reach 6 feet from tip to tip.

Diet: Moose are eating machines. They are ruminates, and spend their days resting, walking, and eating. During the winter, moose consume large quantities of aspen, birch, and willow twigs and bark. During the spring and summer, they favor sedges, horsetail, aquatic grasses, and leaves.

Range: Moose are found throughout northern forests and bogs in North America, Russia, and Europe. The European moose is called an "Elk", but is not to be confused with the elk of North America. In Alaska, they range from the Panhandle to the Arctic Slope. They are not found on the islands of Prince William Sound, Kodiak, or in the Bearing Sea. Along the Alaska Peninsula, they are found down to Cold Bay, and they have inhabited the Seward Peninsula only within the last thirty years. Moose favor recently burned areas, timberline plateaus, and land along bogs and rivers.

Life History: Moose breed during their rut in late September and early October. Several bulls may gather around females during rut and joust in shoving matches with their antlers. The winner will mate with the female, and the loser of the match will generally leave the area. Serious injuries are not common during these jousting matches. Cows are ready to breed once they reach of 16 to 28 months of age. After a gestation period of about 230 days, the cow will give birth to a reddish-brown calf weighing from 25 to 35 pounds. The incidence of twin births ranges from 15 to 70%, and triplets are thought to occur in one in one thousand births. The number of multiple births is related to the conditions of the range during gestation. Cows tend to seek out swampy, muskeg areas for birthing. They will vigorously defend their newborn calfs.

The newborn(s) will stay with their mother for the first year and never really leave her side. If the cow is impregnated the following year, she will actively drive away her yearling before she gives birth to a new calf. However, if her new calf does not survive, she often will take her yearling back. Moose calfs, and moose in general, are vulnerable to predation by black and brown bears, and wolves. Despite their long legs, deep crusty snow can limit a mooses mobility such that it may starve to death. Moose have proven to adapt to the presence of man, but are often hit by cars or trains, and are the most hunted of all of Alaska's big game species.




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