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Moose Biology and Habitat

moose cowThe largest member of the deer family, the moose (Alces alces) occurs in Europe, Asia and North America.

Moose can get to be 6.5 to 9 feet in length and weigh up to 725 to 1100 pounds. The moose's coloration can vary from grayish- or reddish-brown to the occasional all-black individual. Boreal forests with shrubby growth and immature trees along with cedar swamps, marshes and alder-willow thickets near waterways are popular places to find moose. Moose are excellent swimmers and can run close to 55 miles an hour. Keen hearing and a well-developed sense of smell help the moose make up for its poor vision.

The moose forages mainly at dawn and dusk for tender young leaves from aspen, maple and birch trees. In the summer the moose focuses on aquatic vegetation that can be found in lakes and rivers. Some favorites include water lilies, rushes, arrowheads and horsetails. An adult moose needs to eat 44 pounds of food a day.

Mating begins in September and continues into October, and one or two young are born in late May or early June. A moose calf has reddish-brown fur, without spots, and usually weighs around 25 to 35 pounds. Calves have a hard time standing for long periods of time when first born but are steady on their feet by day five and follow the cow after 15 to 20 days. Most females do not mate until their third year and males until their sixth.

Wolves are the only predator in Michigan large enough to take down and adult moose, although mortality studies of moose in the Upper Peninsula show depredation by wolves is not a measurable factor in moose mortality. Calves frequently are attacked by bobcats and bears. A moose in the wild can reach, on average, 27 years of age.