August 20, 2017

Moose Bio

THE MOOSE (Alces alces) IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST MEMBER OF THE DEER FAMILY and the species found in Alaska (Alces alces gigas) is the largest of all the moose species.

These very long-legged, heavy bodied animals are found in areas that generally offer abundant willow and birch and that have a mixed terrain of rivers, lakes, swamps, hills and mountain meadows. Easily recognizable with their large, drooping noses and dewlap or “bell” under their chin, moose vary in color from golden brown, to gray and almost black, depending upon the age of the animal and the season.

Adult bull (male) moose in prime condition can weigh between 900 and 1,300 pounds and stand nearly seven feet at the shoulder. This tremendous size is understandably necessary to support the absolutely massive antlers that they carry. The largest moose antlers in North America come from Alaska and a few select areas in Canada. Alaska moose are generally not considered of trophy size until the width of their antlers, measured at the widest point perpendicular to the axis of the skull, reaches 50 inches. Moose typically reach this size by age six or seven and continue to grow larger until their prime age which is usually between ten and twelve years old. As moose pass their prime, their antlers tend to become more massive or heavy and less wide until the age of about fourteen or fifteen, which is considered very old. Hunters need to remember when judging or considering a bull moose as a trophy that width simply isn’t everything and that there is much more to consider than simply the overall width of the antlers. Length and width of the palms, number of points on each side, symmetry between the sides and the development of the fronts of brow times as well as over all width should all be important considerations in judging a trophy class moose.

Cow (female) moose, which can weigh between 600 and 1,000 pounds, are easily recognizable from bull moose since they do not grow antlers. Cows generally begin breeding at two years old and give birth to usually one or two calves between mid May and early June after a gestation period of around 230 days. Occasionally a cow will give birth to triplets and the occurrence of twins or triplets is directly related to the conditions of their ranges. A cow moose will vigorously and aggressively defend her newborn calf which begins eating solid food a few days after birth. Calves are weaned from the cows in fall as the cow begins breeding again. The calf will remain with the cow for a year until she chases it away from her and the immediate area as she prepares to give birth again.

In September and early October, the mighty crack of antlers and the low, bellowing calls of bull moose can be heard echoing along valley bottoms as the bull’s enter the rut or breeding period. They display their great antlers to each other and often bring their antlers together and joust or push against each other. The winner of these battles usually mates with the female in contest. By middle to late October the moose are finished breeding and the bulls have exhausted their summer fat reserves and begin feeding to replenish what fat they can before winter sets in.

During the winter, moose consume large quantities of willow, birch and aspen twigs as many of their food sources are buried beneath a heavy blanket of snow. In the spring and summer moose resume their diet of sedges, grasses, pond weeds and various leaves. Throughout the course of the year, moose may make seasonal movements between summer range areas, calving areas, rutting grounds, and winter ranges. These movements may be from only a few miles to as many as sixty miles in some locations.

– Henry Tiffany with portions excerpted from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Wildlife Notebook Series