All photographs on this site are available for purchase as commercial stock photography or fine art display pictures for home or office. I have an extensive collection of moose pictures in all seasons, from many regions throughout Alaska. You can browse a selection of photos in the moose photo gallery (right), use the keyword search box (top), or search for all pictures here: Search Moose photos >> The natural history information included below is taken from the Alaska Fish and Game Wildlife Notebook series on Wildlife.
About the Moose (Alces alces)
The Moose is the world’s largest member of the deer family. The Alaska race (Alces alces gigas) is the largest of all the moose. Moose are generally associated with northern forests in North America, Europe, and Russia. In Europe they are called “elk.” In Alaska, they occur in suitable habitat from the Stikine River in the Panhandle to the Colville River on the Arctic Slope.
They are most abundant in recently burned areas that contain willow and birch shrubs, on timberline plateaus, and along the major rivers of South central and Interior Alaska.
Moose are long-legged and heavy bodied with a drooping nose, a “bell” or dewlap under the chin, and a small tail. Their color ranges from golden brown to almost black, depending upon the season and the age of the animal.
The hair of newborn calves is generally red-brown fading to a lighter rust color within a few weeks. Newborn calves weigh 28 to 35 pounds (13-16 kg) and within five months grow to over 300 pounds (136 kg). Males in prime condition weigh from 1,200 to 1,600 pounds (542-725 kg). Adult females weigh 800 to 1,300 pounds (364-591 kg). Only the bulls have antlers.
The largest moose antlers in North America come from Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. Trophy class bulls are found throughout Alaska, but the largest come from the western portion of the state. Moose occasionally produce trophy-size antlers when they are 6 or 7 years old, with the largest antlers grown at approximately 10 to 12 years of age. In the wild, moose rarely live more than 16 years.
Cow moose generally breed at 28 months, though some may breed as young as 16 months. Calves are born any time from mid- May to early June after a gestation period of about 230 days. The incidence of twinning is directly related to range conditions.
A cow moose defends her newborn calf vigorously. Calves begin taking solid food a few days after birth. They are weaned in the fall at the time the mother is breeding again. The maternal bond is generally maintained until calves are 12 months old at which time the mother aggressively chases her offspring from the immediate area just before she gives birth.
Moose breed in the fall with the peak of the “rut” activities coming in late September and early October. Adult males joust during the rut by bringing their antlers together and pushing.
Serious battles are rare. Bulls may receive a few punctures or other damage and occasionally die from their wounds. The winner usually mates with the female. By late October, adult males have exhausted their summer accumulation of fat and their desire for female company. Once again they begin feeding. Antlers are shed as early as November, but mostly in December and January.
During fall and winter, moose consume large quantities of willow, birch, and aspen twigs. In some areas, moose actually establish a “hedge” or browse line 6 to 8 feet above the ground by clipping most of the terminal shoots of favored food species.
Spring is the time of grazing as well as browsing. Moose eat a variety of foods, particularly sedges, equisetum (horsetail), pond weeds, and grasses. During summer, moose feed on vegetation in shallow ponds, and browse on the leaves of birch, willow, and aspen.
Moose have a high reproductive potential and can quickly fill a range to capacity if not limited by predation, hunting, and severe weather. Deep crusted snow can lead to malnutrition and subsequent death of hundreds of moose and decrease the survival of the succeeding year’s calves.
Moose are killed by wolves and black and brown bears. Black bears take moose calves in May and June. Brown bears kill calves and adults the entire time the bears are out of their winter dens. Wolves kill moose throughout the year. Predation limits the growth of many moose populations in Alaska.
Moose, roadways and vehicles are not a good combination. Every year 700-800 hundred moose are killed by cars on Alaska’s road system. Unlike other members of the deer family, the eyes of a moose do not shine in the headlights. This combined with their dark bodies make them difficult to see in Alaska’s dark winter. In some locations, Anchorage in particular, fences have been constructed to keep moose off important traffic areas like major highways and airport runways.
Economic and future status
Because moose range over so much of Alaska, they have played an important role in the development of the state. At one time professional hunters supplied moose meat to mining camps. Historically, moose were an important source of food, clothing, and implements to Athapaskan Indians dwelling along the major rivers. Today, Alaskans and nonresidents annually harvest approximately 6,000 to 8,000 moose—some 3.5 million pounds of meat. Moose are an important part of the Alaskan landscape, and tourists photograph those animals that feed along the highway.
Text: Robert A Rausch & Bill Gasaway
Revised by Charles C. Schwartz and reprinted 1994
ADF&G Wildlife Notebook Series