Moose are one of the northern hemisphere’s largest land mammals and the largest members of the deer family. Their coloring ranges from brown to a dusky black depending on the animal’s age and the time of year, with calves often a light rusty coloring. Moose have long legs, the front legs being longer than the back ones. Their snout is long and they have a droopy bottom lip and a shoulder hump. Under their chin is a flap of skin which is like a bird’s wattle. Their tail is short and each foot has two large toes with hooves and two smaller toes. They can move fast, even in the wet and mud. Their two large toes spread widely apart to stop them from sinking.
Moose inhabit northern North America. They are found throughout Canada, Alaska, the northeastern United States and right down in Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. They are also found in large numbers in northern European countries and throughout Russia. Moose prefer wet conditions where there are ponds, lakes, and swamps.
Moose are most active at dawn and dusk. They tend to be solitary, the strongest bonds developed between mother and calf. Sometimes two individuals will feed at the same stream. Herds are usually seen during the breeding season but may contain only two adults. A moose is able to run at 35 miles per hour and easily swims 10 miles. They will rest in shallow water to cool off or to escape from biting insects. They rely on their good sense of smell, as they have poor eyesight. Often, while eating, moose will suddenly stop to listen out for any threats. You can tell if a moose might attack when the long hairs on the hump are raised and the ears are laid back. A number of populations of moose (especially in Europe) migrate, however, others remain in one area throughout the year.
Moose are herbivorous mammals and they eat birch and aspen twigs, sedges, horsetail, roots, grasses and pond weeds. They eat leaves, buds, twigs, and bark from some woody plants, also lichens, aquatic plants and several of the taller herbaceous plants that grow on land. Moose are able to forage for aquatic plants both under and on the water.
Moose breed in September and October. The males are polygynous and will seek several females to breed with. During this time both sexes will call to each other. Males produce heavy grunting sounds that can be heard from up to 500 meters away, while females produce wail-like sounds. Males will fight for access to females. Female moose have an eight-month gestation period, usually bearing one calf, or twins if food is plentiful, in May or June. Newborn moose have fur with a reddish hue in contrast to the brown appearance of an adult. The young are weaned 5 months after birth but will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born. Moose become reproductively mature when they are 2 years old and are fully grown at 4 or 5.
Habitat degradation and hunting are the major threats. Calves and ill or elderly moose are preyed upon. The main predators are large carnivores, including humans, wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears. Moose are hunted for meat as well as for sport and as an ecotourism activity. They are not listed as endangered or threatened on national or global levels, but in Michigan, they are listed as a species of special concern.
According to Wikipedia specific moose populations have been estimated in such areas: Moose population in North America: in Canada - 500,000 to 1,000,000 individuals. In the United States around 300,000 individuals. Moose population in Europe and Asia: Finland – 115,000 individuals. Norway – 120,000 moose. Latvia – 21,000 moose. Estonia – 13,260 moose. Poland - 2,800 individuals. Czech Republic – 50 moose. Russia – 730, 000 individuals. Sweden - Summer population is estimated to be 300,000 – 400,000 moose. Around 100,000 are shot each fall. Overall, currently, moose are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.
Through browsing, moose have a dramatic effect on plant communities and may inhibit the reforestation of pine and spruce forests, thus having a possible negative effect on the timber industry. Moose are hunted for sport and for meat, including as an ecotourism activity.
Attempts have been made to domesticate moose, as has been done with deer, sheep, and cattle. Russia has used moose both for pacifistic and military purposes, and other countries have followed suit. Moose can supply meat and milk, and in North Europe and Asia, they were used as beasts of burden. In Russia moose have successfully pulled sleighs weighing 400kg at 3-4 km/h for a whole day. In Siberia and Sweden, they have been trained for riding on - in particular, for military purposes.