Alces alces
Life Span
15-25 years
Top speed
32 km/h
270-720 kg
1.8-2.1 m
2.4-3.2 m

The moose (in North America) or elk (in Eurasia) (Alces alces) is a member of the New World deer subfamily. It is the largest and heaviest extant species in the deer family. Hunting and other human activities have caused a reduction in the size of the moose's range over time. It has been reintroduced to some of its former habitats.


The coloring of these animals ranges from brown to a dusky black depending on the animal’s age and the time of year, with calves often having a light rusty coloring. Most adult males have distinctive broad, palmate ("open-hand shaped") antlers; most other members of the deer family have antlers with a dendritic ("twig-like") configuration. 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 that 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. Some populations of moose (especially in Europe) migrate, however, others remain in one area throughout the year. Moose typically inhabit boreal forests and temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. They can also be found near swamps, lakes, rivers, and wetlands, in open country in the lowlands and mountains, including farmland, if there is a forest nearby.

Moose habitat map

Climate zones

Moose habitat map
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Habits and Lifestyle

Moose are active during the day. They tend to be solitary, and 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 (56km/h) 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.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Moose are herbivorous animals 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.

Mating Habits

8 months
1-2 calves
12 months

Moose are polygynous meaning that males mate with several females during the breeding season which occurs in September and October. 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.


Population threats

Habitat degradation and hunting are the major threats to these beautiful animals. Moose are hunted for meat as well as for sport and as an ecotourism activity. Predation of calves by Brown bears also poses a serious threat to moose populations.

Population number

According to IUCN Red List, specific moose populations have been estimated in such areas: Czech Republic - maximum of 50 individuals, Estonia - 10,000 individuals, Finland - at least 110,000 individuals, Poland - 2,800 individuals, Sweden - 340,000 individuals. In North America, the estimated moose population is approximately one million individuals. Overall, currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

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.


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 northern 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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • This species is called a "moose" in North American English, but an "elk" in British English. The word "elk" in North American English refers to a completely different species of deer, also called the wapiti (Cervus canadensis).
  • Male moose have antlers like other members of the deer family and females typically select mates based on antler size. Interestingly that moose with antlers have more acute hearing than those without antlers.
  • After the mating season males drop their antlers to conserve energy for the winter. A new set of antlers will then regrow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastest-growing animal organs. Birds, carnivores, and rodents eat dropped antlers as they are full of protein, and moose themselves will eat antler velvet for nutrients.
  • The fur of these animals consists of two layers; the top layer of long guard hairs and a soft wooly undercoat. The guard hairs are hollow and filled with air for better insulation, which also helps moose stay afloat when swimming.
  • Moose lack upper front teeth but have eight sharp incisors on the lower jaw. Their upper lip is very sensitive and helps distinguish between fresh shoots and harder twigs; it is also prehensile, for grasping food. To reach high branches, a moose may bend small saplings down, using its prehensile lip, mouth, or body. For larger trees a moose may stand erect and walk upright on its hind legs, allowing it to reach branches up to 4.26 meters (14.0 ft) or higher above the ground!
  • A typical moose, weighing 360 kg (794 lb), can eat up to 32 kg (71 lb) of food per day.


1. Moose Wikipedia article -
2. Moose on The IUCN Red List site -

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