The Maternal Order of the Moose
May 13, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - They may not be appear to be glowing with motherhood but many of the cow moose you see eating at the edge of the woods on your drive to work each day may be eating for two, or even three.
The long winter is over and we are about to start on another Alaskan season: moose calving season. Interior moose begin to give birth in mid-May, lasting well into June. We'll soon be seeing mother moose followed by cute little light brown, lanky legged calves.
Though their size and oddly downward drooping nose may make them look more like a relative of the horse than of a deer, moose are actually the largest members of the deer family. The males (bulls) grow and shed antlers every year, the cows do not. They have large two-toed hooves and have a varied diet from eating twigs and sprouts off trees as well as grassy low lying plants, even in and around water. Out of the seven subspecies that exist in the world, the Alaska-Yukon variety, here in the Interior, are the largest of them all. Males often weigh in at 1,200 to 1,600 pounds and the females from 800 to 1,300 pounds. The scientific name for the Alaska-Yukon subspecies is Alces alces gigas, which means "giant elk".
These animals, though they may look gangly, slow and unaware, are not. A mother moose has a very short temper when it comes to the protection of her calf. They will defend themselves by charging and kicking forward with their front legs and because of their size that kick can reach very high and with an amazing amount of force and speed. Moose show signs of aggressiveness and a growing state of annoyance by laying back their ears and hair on their back and neck stands up.
Even though they may be large, they have an unbelievable talent for blending in with their surroundings. So please be aware as you leave buildings, ride bikes, exercise outside and use pathways that have partially obstructed turns. Having a pair of binoculars is the best way to view these animals, staying in a car will cause less stress on the animal and will allow you a longer time to observe. It is illegal to feed moose, though they may attempt to go through your trash on occasion.
For more information on moose visit the web pages of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and The Alaska Moose Federation.