Bull moose lock antlers. NPS Photo

A member of the deer family, moose (Alces alces shirast Nelson) are often called “awkward,” “homely,” “prehistoric,” and “strange” along with a host of other slurs. Nonetheless, these unusual creatures persevere with an array of unique bodily oddities. Boasting a naturally grumpy temperament, moose feature cloven webbed feet that make them both water and land lovers, large flapping ears that detect the presence of danger, long legs that enable them to travel up to thirty miles per hour, and a six to ten inch fleshy combination of skin and hair hanging from their throats that helps them efficiently shed water.

Although such curious creatures captivate all those lucky enough to see them, the chocolate-colored moose maintains a nearly solitary life and demands plenty of personal space. Male and female moose only congregate together during the September to November mating season, with bulls spending just one week with each cow before finding their next target of affection. Cows generally give birth to one calf each May or June, with newborns weighing in at a hefty thirty-five pounds. Visitors should be especially careful around cows with young. Female moose are notoriously protective of their babies, and despite an absence of antlers, are ferocious fighters who use their sharp hooves to kick and destroy predators. Female moose can weigh up to 800 pounds and are not as docile as they appear.

Males, who bear no interest in rearing their young, are distinguished with large antlers. Featuring palm-shaped antlers with finger-like extensions extending the rack to a total span of up to five feet, bull moose average 900 pounds but can weigh as much as 1,300 pounds. Both males and females live an average eighteen to twenty years if they are able to escape the predators of starvation, disease, wolves, and grizzly bears.

During their life, Yellowstone’s moose spend most of their time in marshes, alder thickets, and near streams. They thrive on woody plants, with most of their diet dependent upon willows, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, and buffaloberry. Each winter season, moose migrate to either the park’s lower elevations near the west and south entrances or to higher, more solitary terrain above 8,500 feet.

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