Moose are the largest members of the deer family and live in various habitats across the globe, such as North America and Russia. Different types of moose exhibit distinct characteristics and adaptations that help them survive in their habitats and climates.
Understanding the various moose is crucial for wildlife conservation and the preservation of biodiversity.
We can better understand their ecological roles and ensure their survival by examining how various moose subspecies adapt to numerous environments.
Related Read: Moose Facts.
Moose belongs to the Cervidae family under the genus Alces. The term "moose" is a generalization that includes various subspecies, each with its physical characteristics and unique habitats across North America and other regions.
Likewise, they live in the northern parts of Eurasia. In these regions, they are commonly called elk. Moose populations are thriving in regions with harsh winters and short summers.
As the largest deer species, moose also has phenomenal strength and weight. There are eight subspecies of moose, and we’ve detailed their distinguishing characteristics below.
The Alaskan Moose or Yukon Moose is the largest subspecies of moose found in Alaska and Western Yukon. For one, they have an average shoulder height of 6 to 7 feet; adult moose weigh between 1,200 and 1,600 pounds. Their antlers span up to 6 feet, making them look even more formidable.
Moreover, the Alaskan Moose have adapted to thrive in the cold weather of Alaska. They have a dense coat of fur and a layer of insulating fat beneath the skin.
The boreal forests, consisting of evergreen and deciduous trees, are the natural moose habitat. During the summer, Alaska Moose wander in lakes and ponds while searching for aquatic plants like pondweed and horsetail. In winter, they switch to woody plants such as willow, birch, and aspen.
However, the Alaska Moose faces several challenges in the wild, including natural predators such as wolves and bears and human encroachment.
The Eastern Moose inhabits the wild landscapes of Eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S.
Leaning into a smaller stature, bull moose weigh around 800 pounds, while female moose weigh about 600 pounds. They have a dark brown to jet-black coat with a skin flap that swings beneath the throat, known as the bell. They stand stall at 6.6 feet at most.
Eastern Moose are active during the early morning and late night hours. They feed on various hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs, including leaves, twigs, and buds. Likewise, they switch to aquatic plants during the summer season.
This type of moose can also swim at a steady pace of 6 miles per hour for two hours. However, they are sensitive to heat stress when temperatures exceed 23 degrees Celsius.
The Western Moose lives in northern and western North America, including North Dakota. It also lives in Canada, where it is known as the Western Canada moose.
This moose sub-species is medium-sized at around 1,000 pounds. It has a dark brown to black coat. They possess a dewlap, a flap of skin that hangs beneath their throat, known as the "bell." The bull moose have broad, palmate antlers that span up to six feet.
Despite their size, Western Moose exhibit power and elegance and can run up to 35 miles per hour.
Their diverse diet comprises leaves, twigs, and buds from various trees and shrubs. During summer, this moose swims and dives to reach aquatic plants.
Their consumption and trampling of vegetation play a significant role in shaping their ecosystem.
The Siberian Moose or Chukotka Moose inhabits the Siberian taiga, enduring harsh winters and fleeting summers. Its dark brown coat is well-suited to the Siberian climate; it thickens and lightens in winter for additional warmth and protection.
As the largest subspecies in Eurasia, they are seven feet tall and weigh between 1100 and 1600 pounds.
The Siberian Moose prefers to roam alone through the vast taiga. During mating season, moose antlers clashing together is a common sight.
They eat leaves, twigs, and aquatic plants, shifting to hardier fare like willow and birch in the winter. They are also strong swimmers and will cross large bodies of water to find food.
Unlike other moose subspecies, the Siberian Moose stays within a small home range.
The European Moose, also known as Eurasian Elk, lives in the heart of Northern Europe. This moose has expansive antlers that can stretch up to six feet.
Moreover, they are a medium-sized subspecies, weighing up to 1000 pounds and standing up to seven feet tall. Despite their size, they can dive into water bodies during summer to feast on aquatic plants.
The European Moose's coat changes color with the seasons, shifting from a vibrant reddish-brown in summer to a muted blackish-gray in winter. This color change helps them blend into their surroundings.
European Moose are solitary creatures, only interacting with others during the breeding season, which takes place between late September and early October.
Regarding food, these moose feed on leaves, bark, twigs, and aquatic plants.
They are exceptionally resilient in winter, enduring temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius. Despite the harsh weather conditions, they survive by nibbling on coniferous tree branches and shrubs.
The Shiras Moose is a species of the North American moose family. It is the smallest moose, named after the famous American zoologist George Shiras III.
They can weigh up to 800 pounds. Their antlers, which have a spread of around 4.5 feet, are smaller than those of their relatives. The Shiras moose has a thick coat of dark brown fur and a light-colored bell that hangs from its throat.
These animals live in the mountainous regions of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Washington in the US and parts of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada.
They can adapt to different habitats, ranging from densely forested mountains to riparian zones, and feed on various vegetation, including willows, aspens, and water lilies.
The Shiras Moose cools off in water and eats underwater plants in summer.
In Yakutia, Russia, the Yakutia Moose inhabits the area where the taiga forests meet the tundra.
Their beautiful dark brown fur blends perfectly into their forest surroundings. The Yakutia Moose has large, palmate antlers, especially in males, which can spread up to two meters wide.
These antlers are tools to ward off rivals during the breeding season. The Yakutia Moose prefer to be alone. However, during the breeding season, they come together.
After eight months, a female gives birth to one or two moose calves, which they nurture to prepare them for the vast Yakutia landscape.
The Ussuri Moose is the smallest subspecies commonly found in the vast expanses of Russia's Ussuri region. Male and female moose are up to six feet tall and weigh only 770 pounds.
Its dark brown or black coat is thick and dense, which helps it survive the region's harsh winters. The moose has a distinct dewlap beneath its throat, larger than other subspecies.
The Ussuri Moose's life is solitary and dictated by the changing seasons. During the winter, it moves to lower elevations in search of food and retreats to cooler heights during summer to escape the heat.
The moose is a strong swimmer, feeding on aquatic plants like pondweed and water lilies.
Despite its resilience, the Ussuri Moose must remain cautious of predators, including the Siberian tiger and packs of wolves. The moose's eating habits also aid in dispersing seeds, enhancing regional biodiversity.
The conservation status of moose is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN2. The global population of this creature is witnessing an increasing trend overall. However, it's different everywhere before.
Between 2006 and 2017, the moose population in northeastern Minnesota declined by 58%. The primary reason for this significant decrease was a brain worm that affects the nervous system of large deers1, causing paralysis and, ultimately, death. Thankfully, due to concerted conservation efforts, the moose population in this area has stabilized.
It's important to remember that moose play a substantial role in our environment. Their impact on vegetation contributes to other species' survival and the health of the overall local ecosystem. This is all the more reason why ensuring their protection and survival is critical.
Garwood, T. J., Moore, S. A., Fountain-Jones, N. M., Larsen, P. A., & Wolf, T. M. (2023). SPECIES IN THE FECES: DNA METABARCODING TO DETECT POTENTIAL GASTROPOD HOSTS OF PARELAPHOSTRONGYLUS TENUIS CONSUMED BY MOOSE (ALCES ALCES). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 59(4).