This week we go massive and talk about the largest deer species in the world, the Moose! Or in Europe known as the Eurasian Elk. Just a phenomenal species to discuss. We really nerd out this week talking about this animals physiology, it’s behavior and all the other wonderful things that make the Moose one of our favorites. Also a special shout out to Julia from Minnesota who is a wonderful Patreon supporter and asked for this species. We also give a special shout out to our Canadian listeners.
The Moose (Eurasian Elk) is the largest species of deer in the world. Deer are from the family Cervidae and are some of the most successful mammals on Earth. They inhabit every continent, minus Australia and Antarctica. Deer evolution spans over the last 20 million years. Antlers, a major characteristic of deer, are bone and able to fossilize. Thus, they have been invaluable in determining Cervidae natural history. They first emerged with a small species called Lagomerycidae, which had small antlers without beams or crowns, but with many forks.
- The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk(wapiti), the fallow deer, and the chital;
- Capreolinae, including the reindeer(caribou), the roe deer, and the moose.
- The subfamily Capreolinae consists of 9 genera and 36 species, while Cervinae comprises 10 genera and 55 species.
Moose evolved in Asia roughly 2 million years ago. They migrated to North America during the last Ice Age and have remained ever since. Today, they have a wide range in the Northern Hemisphere and were even introduced in New Zealand over 100 years ago. However, it is believed they died out in New Zealand, though some say they are still there.
Moose are HUGE, that is not in doubt. Their height, from hoof to shoulder, ranges from 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters). Males are heavier than females; males weigh 794 to 1,323 pounds (360 to 600 kilograms), while females weigh 595 to 882 pounds (270 to 400 kg). Their antlers are almost 6 feet (almost 2 m) across. One of the most fascinating bits oh physiology is that Moose cannot sweat. These animals have evolved to survive and thrive in cold climates and have no need to sweat. If they are hot, they will seek shade or stand in cool water. However, with climate change, many are concerned the dramatic affect the warmer temperatures can have on Moose. Already Moose are struggling to survive in lower latitudes. Especially within the United States. Some other fun Moose facts include:
- Moose are critical, keystone species, to the habitat; they have dramatic influence on the landscape as herbivores
- Typically live 15 to 20 years, maybe up to 25 years
- Can run up to 35 MPH (56 kph)
- Antlers are also called paddles
- Exceptional hearing, aided with their antlers; can rotate each ear individually
- Nose is developed to browse water plants; nostrils can close
- Large brown eyes, that can rotate individually
- Antlers take 3-5 months to develop, found only on males
- Antlers drop off after the breeding season
- Females can have twins, sometimes triplets
Moose are currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. There are approximately 1.5 million Moose around the world. However, as noted above, climate change can have a devastating affect on the Moose. They have trouble surviving in temperatures about 80 F (27 C) and with the planet warming faster at the poles, particularly the Arctic, Moose will be affected. We need to keep our eyes on this species, as it plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.