Moose are the largest out of all the deer species. With their remarkable size and distinctive appearance, these herbivores manage to draw eyes wherever they roam. That's why we prepared a list of top moose facts that will undoubtedly surprise you, from their huge antlers to impressive swimming skills.
You will also discover these animals' unique adaptations, such as their thick skin and big hooves, which allow them to thrive in freezing temperatures. Read more through our list of moose facts as you'll uncover a wealth of knowledge about their adaptations and current conditions.
11 Moose Facts
1. They are the largest among the deer family.
Moose are the largest and heaviest extant species in the deer family. From the towering Alaskan moose of the North American wilderness to the more modestly-sized European moose, the eight moose sub-species illustrate these intriguing creatures' adaptability and ecological variety. They belong to the Cervidae family, including other members such as elk, caribou, and white-tailed deer.
With adult males weighing between 900 and 1,400 pounds, moose tower above their deer relatives. On the other hand, female moose weigh an average of 800 to 1,300 pounds. These majestic animals can also stand up to 6.5 feet tall at the shoulder.
Moose are not only known for their size but also their distinctive physical characteristics. They have elongated faces and an overhanging muzzle that extends beyond their upper lip. Furthermore, moose have relatively large and mobile ears that can rotate independently.
Adult male and female moose have a flap of skin, known as a bell or dewlap, hanging beneath their chin. The size of the bell increases with age and is more pronounced in dominant males. It serves as an additional visual display during the fall mating season and helps intimidate rival males.
2. They go by different names.
The scientific name of the moose is Alces alces. However, other countries don't call them "moose." In British English, these majestic animals are more commonly called "elk." The largest moose population is in Canada, whose residents call them rubber-nosed swamp donkeys.
The term "elk" comes from the Old Norse word "elgr," which various European languages later adopted to refer to this animal. When European settlers arrived in North America, they met the indigenous Algonquin people who called the animal "moose" or "smoosh," which means twig-eater or stripper and eater of bark.
This naming inconsistency has caused some confusion. In North American English, "elk" refers to a completely different species of deer, scientifically known as Cervus Canadensis. North American elk, also called wapiti, share a few similarities with moose, such as antlers and herbivorous diet. However, they are smaller in size and have a distinct appearance.
3. They have enormous antlers.
Male moose, called bulls, start to grow antlers during spring. These distinctive broad palmate antlers can span up to 6 feet in width and weigh as much as 40 pounds. Palmate antlers have a flat, palm-like structure with tines or points, which is uncommon for other deer family members with twig-like structured antlers.
Interestingly, only bulls grow antlers, each with a unique pattern. All male moose grow and lose their antlers. Moose shed their antlers between mid-November and March.
Furthermore, the shed antlers play a crucial role in the ecosystem. Smaller mammals like squirrels, mice, and porcupines rely on fallen moose antlers to extract vital nutrients for bone strength, health, and reproduction.
Birds, including woodpeckers and grouse, also benefit from consuming the antler fragments. Meanwhile, decomposition enriches the soil, fostering plant growth and supporting a more sustainable ecosystem.
4. They have a plant-based diet.
A moose's diet primarily comprises grasses, leaves, shrubs, aquatic plants, and bark from some woody plants. They have a separate stomach (called rumen), like deers and goats, to help them digest their fibrous food. Moreover, moose can eat an impressive 50 to 70 pounds of terrestrial and aquatic vegetation daily.
Moose use their dexterous, sensitive lips to strip leaves from branches to access their meals effectively. Their impressive height also allows them to reach taller vegetation.
During summer, adult moose sometimes even dive into shallow water to reach their preferred water plants like pondweed and lilies. These underwater greens provide essential minerals and help them stay cool in hot weather.
As the seasons change, they adapt their diet, feeding on twigs and branches in the fall. During winter, moose hooves dig through snow to find ground vegetation like mosses.
5. They live in cold climates across the globe.
Moose live in boreal forests, temperate broadleaf, and mixed forests across North America, Europe, and Asia. These regions have dense stands of coniferous trees and water bodies, like rivers and lakes. These habitats provide moose with abundant vegetation and diverse food sources.
In the Northeastern United States, you can spot them in the sprawling wilds of Alaska and Canada. Similarly, moose habitats stretch across the Atlantic, from Scandinavian countries to Russia, and even reach the remote areas of northeastern China.
One of the critical factors of moose habitat preference is their close association with water sources. These magnificent animals rely on the plants found in lakes, rivers, and swamps.
6. They are geared for harsh weather conditions.
Moose have developed adaptations that allow them to thrive in cold environments. Their thick fur, consisting of an insulating undercoat and a longer layer of hollow guard hairs, efficiently traps warm air close to the skin, creating an impressive thermal barrier that can endure freezing temperatures.
Additionally, their specialized nose with a counter-current heat exchange system minimizes heat loss during exhalation, allowing the moose to maintain a higher body temperature without expending extra energy.
Their elongated snout also helps them find food under the snow by breaking through icy layers, providing them with the necessary nutrients to stay well-fed and insulated from extreme cold. Another example of unique adaptations is the Alaskan moose, with its muscular legs helping it traverse the deep snow in its chilly home territory.
7. They are skilled swimmers and divers.
Considering their size, this reindeer fact is shocking! With their long legs and large hooves, they effortlessly navigate deep waters and can swim at impressive speeds of up to 6 miles per hour.
These aquatic adventures serve a critical purpose. Moose frequently dive underwater, sometimes as deep as 20 feet and as long as a minute, to reach their favorite aquatic vegetation.
8. Moose are loners.
Moose are one of the least social animals. They prefer solitude and are typically seen alone or with females during mating season. They browse individually, communicate with limited vocalizations, and cautiously behave when encountering other moose.
Although solitary, these beasts are pretty gentle. They are only aggressive when threatened by humans or predators.
When confronted with predators like wolves and bears, they defend themselves by slapping the opponent with their front legs and kicking them with their powerful hind legs. Besides, they are impressive runners. An adult moose can run up to 35 mph for short distances. Even alone, moose are still formidable targets for predators.
Related: Check our koala facts to know more about another lone herbivore.
9. Male moose engage in intense battles during mating season.
During their rut, males put their huge antlers to work as formidable weapons and impressive displays to attract potential mates.
Male moose or bull moose engage in intense battles, locking their antlers together and shoving each other with incredible force as they vie for the right to mate with female moose, called cows. However, brute strength is only an example of their strategies in their quest for the attention of a cow moose. Scent and sound also play essential roles during the mating season.
They also display behavioral patterns similar to other cervids, including courtship croaking, tongue flicking, and genital smelling. However, both sexes show little apparent post-copulation behavior. The research also found that moose cows only mate with one male except for a few cases where a female had two male partners2.
10. Female moose typically give birth to one to two calves.
When spring arrives, moose mothers give birth to their young calves after around 230-240 days of pregnancy. Usually, a female moose gives birth to one or two calves.
These newborns can stand and walk within just a few hours of entering the world. In the wild, the rapid development of moose calves plays a vital role in their survival.
During their first six months, the baby moose depend on their mothers for nourishment, protection from predators, and guidance. They start with their mother's milk and gradually learn to eat plants. The bond between the mother and the calf grows stronger as the calf becomes more independent.
After six months, the calf is ready to face the world, though the young moose stay close to their mothers for a year or more to learn essential skills and grow stronger.
11. Moose populations are stable but still face threats.
Moose are not currently considered endangered, yet their survival faces several threats. Habitat degradation, food competition, illegal hunting, and predation continue to impact their habitat and population. Adding to these challenges, the ongoing climate crisis has presented significant risks for moose1.
With rising temperatures, moose face heat stress, weight loss, and tick infestations that can result in anemia. Diseases such as brain worm and chronic wasting disease also pose severe dangers to their communities. Cooperation among government agencies, NGOs, and Indigenous communities is crucial to tackling these threats.
Organizations like The Nature Conservancy work hard to preserve and improve moose habitats. Collaborative efforts are vital in protecting these majestic creatures in a changing climate. As moose's challenges continue to grow, prioritizing conservation efforts that promote their long-term survival is more important than ever.
After reading the facts about moose, do you want to go to Canada or Alaska to visit them? We do!
Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with M.
Murray, D., Cox, E., Ballard, W. B., Whitlaw, H. A., Lenarz, M. S., Custer, T. W., Barnett, T., & Fuller, T. K. (2006). Pathogens, Nutritional Deficiency, and Climate Influences on a Declining Moose Population. Wildlife Monographs, 166, 1–30.
Van Ballenberghe, V., & Miquelle, D. G. (1993). Mating in moose: timing, behavior, and male access patterns. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 71(8), 1687–1690.