Moose (Alces alces) - Wiki
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[Photo] Moose (Alces alces). A full grown bull moose from British Columbia with early (May) antlers. Photo by Kickstart70 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Kickstart70). The author released this image into the public domain.
The species Alces alces is called the moose (by North Americans; a name derived from Eastern Abenaki moz) , and the Native American term "twig-eater", due to the moose's vegetarian diet (which, of course, includes twigs), or the elk (by Europeans). Alces alces is the largest existing member of the deer family Cervidae, distinguished from the others by the palmate antlers of its males. These antlers are unique in shape, having a more cup-like shape as opposed to the common twig-like figuration of others in the deer family.It should be noted that in North America, the name elk is given to the second largest species of deer - an animal also called the wapiti.
Habitat and range
Moose are typical of boreal and mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to subarctic climates. In North America, that includes almost all of Canada, Alaska, much of New England, the upper Rocky Mountains, Northeastern Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Small but present moose populations have been verified as far south as the mountains of Colorado. Moose have been successfully introduced on the island of Newfoundland in 1904 where they are now the dominant ungulate, and somewhat less successfully on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Ten moose were also introduced in Fiordland, New Zealand in 1910, but they were thought to have died off. Nevertheless, there have been reported sightings that were thought to be false until moose hair samples were found by a New Zealand scientist in 2002.
The male moose's antlers arise as cylindrical beams projecting on each side at right angles to the middle line of the skull, which after a short distance divide in a fork-like manner. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening.
In the North Siberian race of the elk (Alces alces bedfordiae) the posterior division of the main fork divides into three tines, with no distinct flattening. In the common elk (Alces alces alces), on the other hand, this branch usually expands into a broad palmation, with one large tine at the base, and a number of smaller snags on the free border.
There is, however, a Scandinavian breed of the common elk in which the antlers are simpler, and recall those of the East Siberian race.
The palmation appears to be more marked in the North American race, the moose (Alces alces americanus) than in the typical Scandinavian elk. The largest of all is the Alaskan race (Alces alces gigas), which can stand over 2 m (6.5 ft) in height, with a span across the antlers of 1.8 m (6 ft).
The male moose will drop its antlers after mating season in order to conserve energy for the winter season. It will then regrow them in the spring. The antlers take about three to five months to grow. This makes their antlers one of the fastest growing organs in the world. The antlers initially have a layer of skin, which will shed off once fully grown.
If a bull moose is ever castrated (either due to accidental or chemical means) he will quickly shed his current set of antlers and then immediately begin to grow a new set of misshapen and deformed antlers that he will wear the rest of his life without ever shedding again. The distinctive looking appendages (often referred to as "devil's antlers") are the source of several myths and legends among many groups of Inuit as well as several other tribes of indigenous peoples of North America.
The great length of the legs gives the moose a decidedly lanky appearance. The muzzle is long and fleshy, with only a very small triangular naked patch below the nostrils. Males have a peculiar sac, known as a bell, hanging from the neck. Moose eat mostly young shoots and leaves of willow and birch, tree bark and mast (the fallen nuts of forest trees) in winter, and water plants (such as Arnicus brucitus). These ruminants are often found feeding in wetlands and swamps. Moose are extremely strong swimmers and are known to dive underwater in lakes and ponds in order to pull up plants from the bottom. They are able to stay under water for a full minute before coming up for air. Their teeth resemble those of other ruminants such as deer, cows, sheep and goats. On each side of the lower jaw they have premolars and four front teeth, one of which is a transformed canine. In the upper jaw there are no front teeth, only a plate of horn against which the food is chewed. The usual stride of a moose is a shambling trot but, when pressed, they can break into a gallop and reach speeds of up to 55 km/h (34 mph).
Male moose (bulls) normally weigh 540 to 720 kg (1200???1600 lbs) and females (cows) usually about 400 kg (880 lb). The typical height is about 1.9 meters (6.2 feet) at the shoulder. Calves weigh around 15 kg (33 lb) at birth but quickly grow in size. Only males have antlers, often 160 cm (64 inches) across and 20 kg (44 lb) in weight with a broad, flattened palmate shape fringed in up to 30 tines. An Alaskan moose discovered in 1897 holds the record for the largest known modern deer; it was a male standing 2.34 m (7.7 feet) at the shoulders and weighing 825 kg. Its antler spread was 199 cm (79 inches).
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