Species Profile: Moose

When we think of wetland species we often think of animals such as birds, amphibians, and aquatic insects. However, wetlands are renowned for being an ecological hotspot that house a surprising list of tenants – one of them being moose. Moose (Alces alces) aren’t always thought of as a wetland species, but they’re frequently seen feeding on the vegetation around marshes, shallow lakes, and swamps. In the winter, moose eat up to 20 kg of plant matter each day, so it’s easy to see the importance of wetlands for their livelihoods.

moose distr
Source: Moose in British Columbia (2000). Ministry of Environment.

In 2000, there were around 170,000 moose with over 70% of them residing in northern British Columbia. This past summer, the Spruce City Wildlife Assocation announced that there has been an dramatic drop in population counts in Prince George. Furthermore, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations conducted 21 moose population surveys which found that while some areas are experiencing decline, others are stable. The causes for the decline include logging, improved hunting technology, and predation. Nonetheless, the current (2011) estimate for BC’s moose population is 235,000, which shows an increase in population since 2000 – but we’ll have to wait until 2014 for an updated estimate. If you would like more information, visit here.

Their mating season includes many preliminary steps. It begins at the end of the first week of September when they stop feeding and begin scent making. This is when the bull digs a small pit, urinates in it, and mixes the urine with the soil. The pit is then used as a bed for the bull to lay in while he waits for his female partners. But why the urine? It actually contains chemicals that coordinate the fertility of the cows. The mating process is not over. By mid September, males begin to fight each other for breeding rights. These battles can be fatal and last for hours. Finally, the strongest moose is then privileged with the ability to impregnate as many cows as he can.

Here are more interesting quick facts about moose:

  • Moose are the largest members of the deer family.
  • Male moose shed their antlers each winter. They grow them back in the spring.
  • Moose have hollow hairs which help keep them warm while they move through deep snow.
  • The word “moose” is Algonquin for “twig eater”
  • The difference between a moose, elk, and caribou? They’re all different species of (big) deer and live in different climatic regions. Moose live in high latitudes (ie. Alaska) and in warmer areas like New England. Caribou/Reindeer live in high latitudes, and Elk is primarily found in western North American and eastern Asia.

If you would like updates on wetlands and wildlife news in BC, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and check our blog weekly! The voting for our September Photo of the Month is coming up, so make sure you send your BC Wetlands Photos to our Flickr page here.

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