What is it about a moose that intrigues us? It is their size? Or the fact that they are not that common to see? Or it is because we don’t see them in zoos? Or could it be most of us don’t know that much about moose?
I love moose for all of the above reasons – so I started doing research and wandered upon my first book—with a family of moose as the co-stars! Grandma and her grandchildren are the stars—but more of that later!
General Moose Facts
Moose got their name from the Cree, Ojibwa who called these large animals “muswa”. They have a unique foot structure with their 3rd and 4th digits fused together giving them the classification of an even toed ungulate. The name of ‘moose’ is an Algonguin term meaning twig eater and as you will read a bit later, they need to eat a lot of twigs each day to survive!
Sadly, the odds of a calf surviving from a first time mother, are only 15-20%. Also, if a cow has a particularly difficult birth, due to the pain the calf caused her, she may choose to abandon it. Here are a few facts about moose calves:
- When a cow is about to give birth, it will chase off last year’s calf so it can be alone with its new baby – many times it will then welcome the yearly back after several weeks
- Twins are more common than single births but it depends largely on the availability of food and the health of the mother when she is bred
- A newborn calf weighs about 30 pounds – quite a bit more than a fawn that weighs only 5 pounds!
- A calf is born with its eyes open and has cinnamon colored hair at birth
- Within an hour, a calf is able to stand and move about
Growing Up Facts
- Moose love the water as it gives them much of their food in the summer with aquatic plants of horsetail, water lilies and other sweet grasses
- The moose nostrils automatically close when they dunk their head into the water to eat
- Water allows moose to get away from many predators and use 10% less energy to swim away than to run away
- Within the first 5 months, the moose calf gains up to 4 pounds per day to be strong enough to last in the cold harsh winters. The weight gain is due to the rich milk from their mother which has 3x more fat than cow’s milk
- At one year, a typical moose calf (yearling)weighs between 500 – 600 pounds!
Antler Growth Facts
- Bulls start growing their new antlers each year in March or April
- The antler’s peak growth rate is in June at 3/4 of an inch per day
- Each year, a bull uses up to 25% of his energy just to grow his antlers
- Antlers start out soft and flexible and are used to spar with others. It is only when the velvety outer layer comes off that they start to harden
- When the blood flow to the antler stops, the fuzzy velvet comes off and eventually the whole antler will be shed
- Moose can eat up to 9000 twigs per day which makes up 1/3 of their diet
- Once a moose breaks off a twig, it turns it around in its mouth so the softer part goes down first
- Along with twigs and aquatic plants, they also eat dandelion shoots and grasses
- A moose nose can smell what is nutritious much like an elephant’s trunk
- Their stomach has 4 chambers – the first is the rumen which secretes microbes to help break up the cellulose in plants. Once the food is saturated in this chamber, it is passed back up to the mouth for more chewing. Yes, they chew their cud like a cow! Once done chewing, the food passes down to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th chambers and out of the body
- Forest fires release minerals that don’t taste good (and most forests have been burned in its past) so that is why deer and moose like to browse as high up as they can as it taste better!
Adult Moose Facts
- A moose is considered an adult at about 8 years old – a bull is then a formidable opponent to other bulls so is able to breed a significant amount of cows
- Adult bulls will reach 1600 pounds and cows will weigh around 1200 pounds
- An adult rack of antlers can span 70 inches
- They are able to run up to 35 miles/hour and swim up to 6 miles/hour
- An adult bull is 7 feet tall at their shoulder and can reach up 10 feet to browse
I think moose are fascinating. They are rarely seen in zoos as they do not do well on livestock feed and their enclosure would be difficult to maintain. Some moose have even died from heart failure from the stress of being enclosed. However, in some countries, moose are kept in farms and the cows are milked for their high fat content milk.
I hope you have enjoyed learning more about moose! If you like reading about different animals, watch for my new book A Cabin by the Lake due out the end of Summer 2015. This book includes several other animal facts both on land and in the water along with heartwarming and whimsical stories of a grandmother taking her grandchildren on adventures!