What is it about those moose? So big, so endearing and so much fun to observe. And, so dangerous.
This blog tells you a little about our Alaska moose. Long story short, they are beautiful, graceful, elegant (in a weird way) and entertaining. But, you need to be wary. Don't approach them. Don't tease them. Don't feed them. They are wild animals and their hooves pack a powerful, killing punch.
The following set of facts is compiled from Wikipedia, Alaska Fish and Game and other websites.
"The Alaskan Moose (Alces alces gigas) or Giant Moose, is one of the largest species of moose and is a subspecies of moose that ranges from Alaska to the Western Yukon. Alaskan moose inhabit boreal forests and mixed deciduous forest throughout most of Alaska and most of western Yukon. Alaska moose are usually solitary but sometimes form small herds. Typically they only come into contact with other moose for mating or competition for mates. During mating season in autumn and winter, male Alaskan moose become very aggressive and prone to attacking when startled."
Predators include bears, wolves and people. Moose are a mainstay of many Alaskans' diet (including ours) and as a game animal are well managed by Alaska Fish and Game. Each autumn and winter brings a hunting season, during which the hunter can use either a firearm or a bow. The largest Alaska Moose was shot in western Yukon in September 1897; it weighed 820 kg (1,800 lbs), and was 233 cm (92 in) tall at the shoulder.
What do they like to eat? "Alaska Moose have a similar diet to other moose subspecies, consisting of terrestrial vegetation forbs and shoots from trees such as willow and birch." (And Phil's ornamental trees, which is what that moose is eating in the photo.) "They require a daily intake of nearly 10,000 calories (32 kg). They lack upper front teeth but have eight sharp incisors on their lower jaw. They also have a tough tongue, gums and lips to help chew woody vegetation."
Size and weight of the Alaska Moose? "Males can stand over 7 ft (2.1 meters) at the shoulder, and weigh over 1386 lbs (630 kg). The antlers on average have a span of 6 ft (1.8 m). Female Alaska Moose stand on average 6–7 ft at the shoulder and can weigh close to 1,056 lbs (486 kg). The Alaska Moose, along with the Chukotka Moose, matches the extinct Irish Elk as the largest deer of all time."
Social structure and reproduction? As mentioned above "Alaska Moose have no social bonds with each other and only come into contact with each other to mate, or when two bull moose fight over mating rights. Although a bull moose is not usually aggressive towards humans, during mating season it might attack any creature it comes into contact with, including humans, wolves, elk, deer or bears. Bull moose often get their antlers locked during a fight" (who hasn't seen Animal KIngdom?) and "both moose typically die from starvation. Bull moose call out a subtle mating call to attract female moose and to warn other males. If a male moose loses to another male, he has to wait another year to mate. Alaska Moose mate every year during autumn and winter, and usually produce one or two offspring at a time. At around 10–11 months, yearling Alaska Moose leave their mothers and fend for themselves."
Safety: You are quite likely to see a moose while out hiking, biking or running. If you do, leave it be and give it a wide berth. Unless it's food stressed (which happens in winter) or has a baby nearby, it will likely leave you alone. If it decides to charge you, keep in mind this safety info from the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game. "Many charges are "bluff" charges, warning you to get back and keep your distance. However, you need to take any charge seriously. Even a calf, which weighs 300 or 400 pounds by its first winter, can injure you. When a moose charges it often kicks forward with its front hooves. Unlike with bears or even dogs, it is usually a good idea to run from a moose because they won't chase you very far. Get behind something solid; you can run around a tree faster than a moose can. If it knocks you down, a moose may continue running or start stomping and kicking with all four feet. Curl up in a ball, protect your head with your hands, and hold still. Don't move or try to get up until the moose moves a safe distance away or it may renew its attack."
How will you know if it is thinking about attacking you?
The long hairs on its hump will raise up and the ears will lay back, much like a dog or cat. It may lick its lips (if you can see this, you are way too close). A moose that sees you and walks slowly towards you is not trying to be your friend; it may be looking for a handout or warning you to keep away. This is a dangerous situation and you should back away. Look for the nearest tree, fence, building, car, or other obstruction to duck behind.
In closing, moose are big fun to observe. But they can also be very dangerous. Enjoy the experience when you see one but keep your distance and know what to do in the case of an attack.
Marilyn Walsh Morgan