NEBRASKAland

NEBRASKAland July 2016

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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JULY 2016 • NEBRASKAland 47 Natural History of Moose The Largest of the Hooved Species By Julie Geiser S hiras moose weigh up to 1,000 pounds and are more than 6 feet at the shoulder. Its larger counterpart, the Alaskan-Yukon species, is the largest of all the moose with adult males weighing from 1,200 to 1,600 pounds and adult females tipping the scales at 800 to 1,300 pounds. Moose are distinguishable from other ungulate species by their long legs, heavy body, stocky neck and humped shoulders. They also sport a long, droopy, giraffe-like nose along with a skin flap or "bell" under their chin. Moose hair is usually dark brown to black with lower legs lighter in color. Calves are reddish brown and are not spotted like other young in the deer family. Moose hairs are long and hollow for excellent insulation in the cold and for buoyancy while swimming. Males or "bull" moose grow the largest antlers of any mammal. Moose antlers are palmated or shaped like the palm of a hand with outstretched fingers. Palms are different than other deer that have antlers with a branch-like shape. Moose antlers are grown in spring and normally shed in winter every year. The largest moose live in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada, while smaller moose inhabit the northeastern United States, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Typically, moose are limited to areas that have cool temperatures as they do not sweat. Moose have more body mass that produces heat than surface area to release it. Moose inhabit forested areas with snow cover in the winter near lakes, rivers, wetlands and bogs. During the summer moose stay in shaded areas and cool themselves in water. Living in Nebraska, where temperatures reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit and above, is hard for moose to tolerate, but a few seem to find a way to survive the hot summer months. The word "moose" comes from the Native American Algonquins, and means "twig eater." Moose are browsers that consume large quantities of stems and twigs of woody plants in fall and winter, sometimes pawing through a foot of snow to reach food. Moose do not have upper incisors or canines and nip off plants between a bony upper palate and their lower incisors. Moose graze, browse and feed on green growth, wild flowers, leaves, aquatic vegetation and shoots of deciduous plants in spring and summer. They are good swimmers despite their massive size, often submerging themselves to feed on aquatic plants below the water surface. Moose are solitary animals, only seeking company during the mating season or when a cow is with her young. They are sexually segregated due to differences in nutritional needs because of body size. Cows with calves seclude themselves from other moose to reduce being singled out by predators. Active at sunrise and sunset, moose are able to run silently through dense forests. Although moose appear awkward, they can run at speeds up to 35 mph. Moose pose a challenge for public safety for those unfamiliar with their behavior. Living in Nebraska most of us fit into that category. Moose tend to follow river systems, coincidentally where many towns are located. When people and moose come into contact they can become aggressive. In Alaska, where they are plentiful, there are more attacks on humans by moose than any other animal, including grizzly bears and black bears combined. Moose often enter communities to graze on shrubs, trees and garbage when natural food sources are scarce. Hunger can put moose in a bad mood along with months of trekking through high snow or being harassed by people or pets. The moose in Nebraska have not attacked any humans, and wildlife officials are trying to avoid any occurrences. The Nebraska moose have shown aggressive posture when humans get too close. If people don't respect these magnificent animals and approach them, officials fear it could be just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Knowing what moose are going through during certain times of the year will help those who may encounter them. In the winter moose are tired of walking through snow and hungry from a diet of twigs, making them less tolerant of those standing in the way of good food. If moose venture into a community, keep your distance and do not corner them. Walk the other way, stay in your vehicle and let the moose go about their business to avoid confrontations. Spring is when calves are born and a cow will not let anything get between her and her young; she will do whatever it takes to protect them. If you encounter moose while in remote areas, turn and move the other direction to give them plenty of room. The rut or breeding season begins in the fall and the bulls will be looking for love, which may include fighting with another bull, thrashing their antlers and getting pretty frisky. Signs that a moose is becoming disturbed by humans or their pets are very noticeable and caution should be used. Ears pinned flat against the head and raised hair along the back and rump is a sign for you to exit in the other direction and give the moose its ground. Licking of the lips, bucking and bluff charges may be displayed when a moose has had enough. Under no circumstances should moose be approached to pet or feed. They may look friendly, but can change their mind at a whim. If you are charged by a moose, try and run as moose won't chase very far. Stay behind something solid; people can run around a tree faster than a gangly moose can. When a moose charges it often kicks forward with its front hooves. If a moose knocks you down it may stomp and kick with all four feet. Curl up in a ball and protect your head with your hands and hold still. Do not move or get up until the moose moves away or it may keep up the attack.

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