The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day Twelve of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Moose

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Moose cow.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scientific Name:  Alces alces is the Eurasian moose.  Alces americanus is the American moose.

Alces” is late Old English, from Old Norse elgr or from an alteration of Old English elh, eolh or possibly from Middle High German elch, all from Proto-Germanic elkh for elk. But moose are not elk, although they are cervids.

Moose have been recently divided into two species by some researchers: the European species, Alces alces, and the North American species, Alces americanus. But the latest research is now showing this to be inaccurate.  It is more likely that all moose originated from Central Asia within the last 60,000 years, and therefore there is only one species of moose instead of two or three subspecies.

Where Moose Live: 

Moose live in forested areas where there is deep snow cover in the winter, and prefer proximity to lakes, ponds, and swamps. They are heat intolerant and will seek shade or bodies of waters to cool themselves.  Part of this heat intolerance is from the heat produced by fermentation of food in their gut.

Moose Range

Moose range map courtesy of IUCN.

What Moose Eat: 

The word “moose” comes from the Algonquin language and means “twig eater.  Moose eat twigs, bark, roots and shoots of woody plants, especially willows and aspens. In the warm months, they eat water plants, water lilies, pondweed, horsetails, bladderworts, and bur-reed. In winter, they browse on conifers, such as balsam fir, and eat their needle-like leaves. Most of a moose’s time is spent eating as they require 44 pounds of food per day. When full, their stomachs can weigh up to 143 pounds.

How Long Moose Live:  8 – 20 years

Why Moose are Awesome:

Moose are the largest cervid in existence today.  In addition, they possess antlers which are one of the fastest growing organs of any animal on Earth.  Antlers begin growing at a rate of up to one inch per day in the spring, under a coating of velvet.  At this stage, antlers are softer and easily injured, but harden in the fall when the velvet is scraped off.  When fully grown, moose antlers weigh 50 to 60 pounds and are 4 to 6 feet across, though the largest antlers recorded were almost 7 feet across. Antlers are shed after rutting season but they grow back the next spring.  Every year, the antlers will get bigger.

Bull moose.  Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bull moose. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Why We Care about Moose: 

Moose are a keystone species.  One moose study in Sweden revealed that Swedish moose contributed 300,000 metric tons of feces each year to the land. This equals about 5,600 tons of nitrogen, which is essential for plant growth and directly affects the rate of nutrient cycling and biological diversity of a forest. Moose also provide millions of pounds in meat to humans each year. Moose hunters contribute $31 million annually to Alaska’s economy and $50 million to Canada’s. The presence of moose also contributes to ecotourism.

Here is a link to a National Geographic clip that demonstrates the size and power of these magnificent beasts!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  And thanks for stopping by The Whisker Chronicles!

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This entry was posted on December 25, 2013 by in Arctic Animals, Mammals, Wildlife.
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