|Moose, Alces alces
General Description: The largest member of the family Cervidae, the moose, Alces alces, has a height range of 1.8 to 2.4 m and weight range of 300 to 800 kg. The hips are lower than the haunches of the animal, as there is a slope from the shoulders to the rump. The long slender legs of the moose terminate with large, long and narrow hooves. The toes of the hooves are spread apart, which facilitates walking on swamps or marshes. Moose have a long brown coat that clings to them in the summer, whereas the winter coat is more dense with a bristly undercoat. There is strong dimorphism in body size in the sexes; males of the species can be up to twenty percent larger than females. The male also has the largest set of antlers of any member of the deer family. The antlers are shed every year in November or December and are flattened with up to forty tines. Males have a dewlap, or bell, on the throat on which a beard grows as the animal matures. In the winter the presence of moose may be indicated by trees bark-stripped trees, a staple of the animal’s winter diet.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat Requirements: Moose are found throughout northern parts of North America, Europe and Asia. They tend to live in deciduous forest, preferring to exist near water. Possibly due to the habitat requirements of raising young, females make make more use of lowland forests and cut-over areas than males. Moose are found throughout New Brunswick within forests, along lake sides and streams and even within bogs and marshes. The moose found in New Brunswick are members of the sub-species, Alces alces americana, or common moose. Interestingly, the main predator of moose elsewhere, the wolf, is absent in New Brunswick. Additionally, New Brunswick winters are substantially milder than other parts of the moose range.
General Biology: Moose are ruminants, thus their diet is herbivorous, consisting of soft wood, branches, twigs, grasses and aquatic or marsh plants. Moose frequently trot, but seldom run. Surprisingly good swimmers, moose can swim upwards of 20 kilometres and are able to make significant dives of up to 6 metres. This behaviour has been adopted as a foraging strategy for aquatic plants. As herbivores, moose compete with other members of the family Cervidae and small mammals such as rabbits and beavers. Moose undergo a down regulation of metabolism in the winter months which results in a reduction in food consumption and subsequent weight loss. This adaptation helps moose to deal with the scarcity of food in their habitat during the winter. During these cold winter months groups of moose assemble together and tramp snow down to establish a “moose yard” where they can strip bark from surrounding trees. The rut, or breeding season, begins in September with males fighting for mates . Males and females usually stay together for one breeding season. In seasons of high food abundance over ninety percent of female moose will become pregnant. One or two young are born in the spring after a 35 to 38 week gestation period. The young are nursed for nine to twelve months and the female cares for the young until the birth of another is imminent. Males of the species reach maturity by the age of five, while females reach maturity by the age of six and are most productive between the ages of six and twelve. The life span of moose can reach 25 years, however many do not reach that age due to hunting. The home range of male moose is significantly larger than that of the female. This is due to two factors: males have higher metabolic requirements and males must also search for females to ensure reproductive success. Additionally, females are significantly less active then males. Predators of moose consist of wolves, black and grizzly bears. Bears prey primarily on moose calves which can have a significant impact on moose populations. If attacked moose are capable of defending themselves with their sharp hooves. In fact, a moose is capable of stabbing a predator to death with a blow from its hooves.
Conservation: The North American moose has a stable conservation status and is very common in Canada, with between 500,000 and 1 million individuals. Due to the strict regulations in terms of season and quantity, moose hunting has not had a significant detrimental effect on the overall Canadian moose population. In fact, due to the substantial dispersal quality of moose populations, very dense populations tend to redistribute themselves into neighbouring populations that have been reduced by hunting. Recently, moose have been introduced into several habitats in North America, including Newfoundland. Additionally, moose have begun to spread to areas they did not used to populate, such as southern British Colombia.