Moose Subspecies Of North America

Bull Moose

“Moose” is a name that has its origin from the Native American word “Moswa,” meaning twig eater. Of the deer family’s living members (Cervidae), the moose is the largest member in the order of Artiodactyla. There are moose in Europe, Asia, and North America. In Europe and Asia, they are referred to as “Eurasian elk,” In North America, we commonly know them as moose. There are four recognized moose subspecies on the North American Continent. This article delves into where each one’s physical characteristics, habitat, and range.

General Features

  • Moose are naturally strong swimmers. They have the ability to swim without stopping for ten miles.
  • Moose have color differences, notably in the area around their faces. The color variation ranges from light brown to a very dark brown color. The bull moose’s color is darker than that of the cow moose.
  • Moose have large antlers. A fully grown bull has palm-shaped antlers that can weigh up to 40 pounds and span up to 6 feet from end to end.
  • For the bull’s antlers to fully develop, it takes around five months. They shed antlers sometime between mid-December and late January and instantly begin to grow new ones.
  • The solitary animals have a stunning characteristic of discerning the changes in seasons to consider before mating. To take advantage of the spring vegetation, they often mate in September to make their calves arrive in June. It is in early September that the bulls rut. They attract the females with their powerful, aromatic urine and smell. They use their forelegs to paw rutting pits in which they urinate and splash on a long skin flap underneath their throats called a bell with the urine-soaked muck to entice breeding. The cows, in return, attract bulls by calling. In a single mating season, a bull will sustain numerous injuries due to fighting for the females.
  • Due to the moose’s large body, they experience long gestation periods of around 230 days. When the calves are born, they weigh 25 to 35 pounds. Delivery of twins is not uncommon with moose. After they’re born, moose calves grow rapidly. They’re weaned from nursing at around five months of age.
  • Although they’re weaned at five months of age, calves stay with their mothers and benefit from their supervision and protection until they’re a year to a year and a half in age. When the cow comes back into estrus, she will chase off her calf if it’s a bull. They don’t generally chase off their female calves but will temporarily leave them when it’s time to give birth to their new calf. Adolescent females will eventually wander off and strike out on their own.
  • The habitat for bulls and cows is slightly different in the summer. During this season, bulls like higher elevations mixed with hardwood which provides adequate shade for cool temperatures, but there is less food supply. On the other hand, cows prefer lower elevations consisting of softwoods and regenerating stands due to their provision of enough food supply. The adequate food availability helps the cows in the time they would use in feeding and also serves as a hiding place for calves from predators. The mature softwoods again act as cover when the depth of the snow exceeds 3 feet.
  • Since lowering heads on the ground can be difficult for the moose, they prefer browsing on higher shrubs and grasses. During snow seasons, they use their hooves to scrape the snow and clear areas with lichens and mosses for browsing. The hooves’ large surface area supports the moose from sinking in mud, marshy ground, and soft snow.
  • When humans tame moose, they are interestingly mischievous, intelligent, but utterly loyal animals.

There are four species in Northern America, they include:

  1. Eastern moose – they are in the northeastern U.S and Eastern Canada.
  2. Shiras moose – are in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and southwestern Canada. The smallest species in North America.
  3. Alaska moose – in Western Yukon and Alaska.
  4. Western moose – in Western Ontario, British Colombia, Michigan Upper Peninsula, Northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.
  • Eastern Moose– The range of the Eastern Moose, extends across Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Eastern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Maine, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. They feed on forbs and other terrestrial vegetation on trees like birch and willow 32kg in a day, just like other moose. During summer, they feed on aquatic plants like pondweed and lilies. Bull Eastern Moose weigh up to 634 kg or 1397 pounds with a height of 5.6 to 6.6 feet at the shoulders. Cows have an average of 5.6 feet and weigh up to 360 kg or 793 pounds.
  • Western Moose Western Moose inhabit deciduous and boreal forests in central Canadian provinces, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. They feed on forbs, willow, birch trees, and other territorial vegetation. Bulls are 6.2 to 6.6 feet and weigh 380kg to 720kg, which converts to 840–1,590 pounds. Cows are 5.6 feet and weigh 230kg to 360kg. They eat 32 kilograms per day.
  • Alaska Moose – The Alaska Moose is the largest of the North American Moose subspecies. They range in Northwestern Canada and Alaska. Bulls weigh up to 726kg or around 1600 pounds and stand up to 6.9 feet at the shoulder, and Cows weigh up to 591 kg or 1300 pounds. The largest Alaska Moose on record was killed by a hunter in 1897. It weighed in at 1808 pounds and stood seven feet, six inches at the shoulder.
  • Shiras Moose– The Shiras Moose ranges in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, southwestern Alberta, and British Columbia. They are the smallest subspecies in North America. A large Shiras bull can weigh up to 1200 pounds, stand up to five foot nine at the shoulder and have an outside antler spread of 55 inches.
Cow moose across the fence from one of my pastures. She was irritated with me at the moment and took a couple of steps towards me when I crossed into her comfort zone.

Moose Safety

The interesting thing about moose is that they’re not overly impressed with humans except perhaps where they live in areas with heavy hunting pressure. In other words, they do not fear you like other members of the deer family do. When you come upon a moose of either sex, a good share of the time, they’ll stand their ground and stare you down. Do not mistake this as a sign that you should approach them more closely. Like all wild animals, moose have a zone that they do not feel comfortable with you in. When you crowd them too closely, you’re putting yourself in danger. In Alaska, moose injure more people each year than bears do.

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Particularly in the fall of the year, give bull moose an accommodatingly wide berth. Also, understand that you ask for trouble if you get between a cow moose and her calf.

As with all things in the outdoors, don’t be paranoid or fearful around these animals. Just understand that they’re wild animals and enjoy them for what they are from a safe distance.

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