Moose are the largest animals in deer family, with males weighing up to 1800 pounds. And they’re herbivores. That, of course, had me wondering – how much does an animal of that size have to eat every day? They spend about eight hours every day feeding and need to eat 30-40 pounds of vegetation for survival. Apparently they also have quite a complicated digestive system designed to allow them to get the most nutrition out of every bite. The process includes digesting a bit of food, regurgitating it, then chewing the cud, and re-swallowing. De-lish.
Oddly, male moose use up to 25% of their energy growing antlers. Seems like the equivalent of spending 25% of your life’s savings on a fancy car. Those antlers on a male moose can be 6 feet wide. Bull moose shed their antlers every fall and re-grow them every spring, with the antlers growing larger each year. At the peak of antler-growing, the antlers may grow as much as ¾ of an inch every single day. Again, think of the amount of vegetation needed to grow those things. Once the antlers have grown to a formidable size, they are used to attract females and to fight off competition. Speaking of which, during mating season bull moose become so focused on the task at hand that they stop eating and may loose up to 100 pounds. But back to the antlers. While it may seem like bull moose devote an inordinate amount of energy growing those antlers, only the moose with the best antlers are successful at mating. They are a sign of health and fitness. Any moose unable to grow a hefty rack must not be healthy and therefore don’t win over any females.
Successful breeding in the fall results in a calf being born in the spring. Calves weigh about 30 pounds at birth and by late fall weigh up to 300 pounds. They nurse for about two months, then begin testing out various vegetation. They will stay with their mothers for a year who provides much needed protection. It should not be lost on us that while cow moose spend their time protecting the young, the bulls spend theirs growing antlers.
My wonderings about moose were inspired by a gigantic male we had the luck to see on a recent hike only a few miles from home. It was a cool, foggy, fall morning and we were on the lookout. And there he was, patiently chewing his cud and not the least bit interested in our passing. Still, we kept our distance.