Did you know that moose are, well, giant? Turns out a lot of people around the world didn’t know, which is why this video of a gigantic moose walking down a road in Alaska has been viewed 1.5 million times. (1)
PSA: Moose are Huge
A man in Alaska recently posted a video of a moose walking down the road in Alaska, and people are losing their minds over how big he is. Many were also quick to point out that the moose seems to be injured as it limps down the road, but the majority of the comments focused on the animal’s size. (1)
It is unknown whether or not the injured animal received aid at this time. (1)
So How Big Are Moose?
Moose are ungulates, meaning that they have hooves, and are members of the deer family. (2) They are characterized by their (2):
- Long, rounded nose or snout
- Slightly humped back
- Thin legs
- Huge bodies
Sometimes confused with elk or reindeer, they most definitely are in a league of their own. Moose are the largest member of the deer family and are the tallest mammals in North America.
The typical height of a moose, measured from hoof to shoulder, is about five to seven feet, or 1.5 to two meters. (2) Their weight varies depending on whether it is a male or female moose (2):
- Males: 794 to 1,323 pounds (360 to 600 kilograms)
- Females: 595 to 882 pounds (270 to 400 kilograms)
Yeah, that’s a whole lot bigger than even the largest of the other members of the deer family.
Despite their large bodies, moose actually have rather short tails. They have a hump on their shoulders and brown or black insulating fur. Moose have what’s called stereophonic hearing thanks to their large, rotatable ears.(2)
One physical trait that most associate with moose is antlers, though, in reality, it is only the male members of the species that have them. These antlers are massive, growing up to six feet (1.8 meters) wide. A moose’s antlers’ sole purpose is to battle another male moose for a mate. After mating season in September and October, they shed their antlers until next year. (2)
Where Do Moose Live?
The video above shows a moose in Alaska, so you can probably guess that these large beasts prefer cooler climates. They like the cold so much, in fact, that you will only find them in places where there is seasonal snow coverage. (3, 4)
The largest moose populations can be found in Alaska and Northern Canada, however, moose are also native to (4):
- Northern Europe
- Some northern states
- The Baltic regions and Siberia
- Some colder regions of Asia
Moose do not sweat, so they can’t live anywhere that has prolonged temperatures of above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). Typically their habitats exist between the 50th and 67th parallel. (4)
Unlike most animals, moose are not social creatures. In fact, according to the Animal Diversity Web, moose are considered one of the world’s least social creatures. The only time they don’t spend alone is during mating season – once that’s over, they go back to their solitude. (3)
Sometimes during mating season, a male moose will create what’s called a “harem herd”: a grouping together of several female moose. Other males will come along and fight the male leader for the right to mate with the females. (2)
They are most active at sunrise and sunset when they are looking for a place to graze. The rest of the time they are relaxing and letting their food digest. Despite their size, however, they still do have predators. These include (2):
They always must stay alert to the threat of a potential attack.
Life Cycle of a Moose
After the mating season is done, provided it has gone successfully, there will be plenty of pregnant female moose walking around. Female moose carry their babies for 231 days (that’s about 7.5 to 8 months). (2)
A newborn calf weighs about 35.7 pounds (16.2 kgs) and gains about 2.2 pounds (1 kg) per day for the first six months or so until they are weaned off of their mother’s milk. They are able to stand on their own by the end of their first day of life. (2)
It takes a calf four to six years to be fully grown, however many don’t make it that long, with about 50% of calves being killed by bears or wolves before they reach six weeks of life. (2) As adults, their chances are much better, with about a 95% survival rate. The average lifespan of a moose is 15 to 20 years. (2)
Moose are vegetarian and eat primarily small plants and parts of trees. If you spoke Algonquin, then you could have probably guessed it: The word Moose is Algonquin for ‘twig eater’. (2)
A moose’s diet is made primarily up of (2):
- Tree buds
- Aquatic plants (ex. Waterlilies)
That is a lot of tough fibrous material to digest, so moose have a four-chambered stomach similar to a cow. This allows them to swallow, regurgitate, chew again (the “cud”), and re-swallow. The first stomach is exclusively for food fermentation, whereas the vital nutrient extraction takes place in the other three. (2)
Thankfully, moose are not currently under any serious population threats, thanks in part to their widespread population. The global population is currently about 1.5 million. (2) Collision with vehicles is the biggest threat to the species, with the greatest number of moose-vehicle collisions happening in Alaska. (2)
7 Fun Moose Facts
Lastly, here are some fun moose facts that you can wow (or annoy) your friends and family with (2):
- Moose’s hair is hollow: This provides better insulation from the cold.
- Their front legs are longer than their back legs: This allows them to jump over obstacles with ease.
- Their back hump is actually just their massive shoulder muscles.
- The flap of skin hanging from their chin is called a bell.
- Moose have wide hooves: They act like snowshoes to make it easier for them to get around in the snow.
- Moose are fast: They can run 35 mph (56 km/h) for short distances and trot at 20 mph (32 km/h) over longer ones.
- They are great swimmers: Moose can swim up to 6 mph (9.5 km/h) as far as 12.4 miles (20km). They can swim underwater for up to 30 seconds at a time.
Who knew moose were so interesting? One thing is for certain: If you ever have the opportunity to see a moose in-person, keep your distance, and take lots of pictures.