Moose have a lonely lifestyle

Sidebar by Lynda La Rocca

Wildlife – May 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

A Lonely Lifestyle

The moose, the largest member of the deer family, can be found from Siberia, Scandinavia, and the Baltics, to Canada and the northern United States.

An adult bull may stand six to seven feet high at the shoulders, reach a length of 10 feet, and weigh up to 1,800 pounds.

The bull’s antlers, which are shed annually in late winter or early spring, can attain a spread of more than five feet and weigh as much as 44 pounds.

Coat color varies from almost black to light brown, taking on a grayish hue in winter. The moose’s long legs enable it to wade into lakes and ponds to feed on aquatic plants, although that same legginess means moose occasionally have to kneel to reach low-growing plants or shallow water.

Fall mating season lasts four to eight weeks, and cows give birth to one to three calves after a gestation period of 35 to 38 weeks. Twin births are fairly common among well-fed moose in prime habitat, two conditions which apply to Colorado’s moose, says the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Gene Schoonveld.

Newborn moose calves weigh 25-35 pounds, have reddish-brown coats that lack spots, are extremely long-legged and are, compared to fawns and elk calves, rather awkward during their first week of life.

Moose are somewhat solitary, although they may form small bands during cold weather, trampling down snow to create a “moose yard,” where they remain as long as their food supply lasts.

In North America, moose reach their maximum size in Alaska. Colorado moose are a subspecies known as the Shiras or Wyoming moose (Alces alces shiras), the smallest of North America’s four moose subspecies.