Ontario Moose Information
Moose (alces alces) are very common in the northern portions of North America, Europe and Asia. The word “moose” comes from an Algonquin Indian word meaning “twig-eater”. This is a very appropriate name considering that their diet consists mainly of leaves and twigs.
Bull moose sport unique massive palm-like racks (antlers) fringed with tines or spikes that are as ling as 12 inches. Larger racks can be very impressive measuring up to 6 feet in width and weigh as much as 44 pounds. They are shed in late Autumn usually around November and begin to grow in April. By late August the racks are fully grown, the velvet dies, dries and is rubbed off.
These solitary animals share overlapping rages consisting of only a few square miles. Moose are very timid of humans except during the fall rut when bulls become dangerously aggressive. Moose are active throughout the day but are mainly seen at dusk and dawn when they venture out of the bush.
This imposing animal is the largest member of the deer family. Large males (bulls) may reach a shoulder height of 6 feet, with a length of 8.5 feet and may weigh between 800 to 1320 pounds. The giant Alaska-Yukon moose may weigh as much as 1760 pounds.
Although moose mainly eat twigs from bushes and shrubs, their favorite food in summer is the aquatic plants that grow in marshes and lakes. They are often seen wading chest-deep in water grazing on these plants that they can easily reach with their long muzzle. An adult moose will eat between 44 to 66 pounds green weight of daily forage.
Females (cows) average between 715 to 880 pounds in weight and do not grow racks. The cows are mature and mate yearly from two years of age onwards. After a gestation period of 240 to 246 days they usually give birth to one calf or occasionally to twins in May or June. If they survive predation these marvelous animals may live to be 20 years of age.
Moose are well suited to the wilderness regions that they inhabit. Their long legs and wide flat hooves, which average 7 inches long, allow them easy passage over all types of terrain. They can step over deadfall in the woods or effortlessly walk through deep snow that hinders most other large animals.
Although ungainly looking, moose can run a steady 30 mph. They are also excellent swimmers and are quite at home in the water. Moose have been known to swim distances up to 12.5 miles and are able to dive underwater to depths of 16.5 feet to reach the aquatic plants they like to eat that grow on lake bottoms.
The breeding or rutting season generally starts around mid-September and lasts until late November. During this period the bull will stay with a given cow for most of the rut, but occasionally may take more that one mate. Cows will entice the bulls by bawling and thrashing in the brush and the bulls lustfully bellow and cough in response to the cows’ bleating.
Moose have extremely poor eyesight but their incredibly keen sense of smell and acute hearing certainly make up for this deficiency. Before bedding down, moose will travel upwind for a good distance and then partially circle back. This way any predators tracking them will have to approach from windward.
Bull moose are easily identified by their wide palm-like racks fringed with tines, long legs with large wide cloven hooves, humped shoulders, a long nose and a long flap or skin hanging under the chin called a bell. Generally, the larger the bull’s rack the larger his bell. Their body fur is dark brown to grey brown with light colored legs.
Since they eat mainly twigs, moose are not limited to meadows and valley bottoms but are found at all elevations below timberline. They eat birch, poplar, willow, red osier dogwood, balsam fir and a variety of maples. When food sources dwindle especially in the late winter months, moose will peel the bark off of trees.