I have lived in Canada for 5 years this month, and so far had not seen a moose in the wild. I travelled all the way through Northern Canada into Alaska, and despite the fact that Alaska has the highest moose population in the US, I never saw one moose – not even a whiff of one!
However, today, I finally came face-to-face with this elusive (at least to me) animal. We took our dogs out for a drive into Kananaskis Country and on our way back we spotted a cow and its calf in a field deep in snow. I must confess, I hadn’t spotted them at all, it was my other half who suddenly stopped the truck and did a u-turn, much to my surprise (even the dogs made some rather surprised noises). We managed to drive alongside them for a while, then turned off into what was probably someone’s ranch access road, and up a small hill round a bend there suddenly was the cow, just about 25m to my right side. It was so exciting, but I couldn’t help thinking that this cow might at any moment turn towards us and ram the truck, which was not a prospect I was looking forward to. Eventually she moved off, crossed the road, jumped a fence and waited for her calf to do the same. Once the calf had finally managed to jump the fence (something it was clearly still not very good at), they both galloped across a field away from us. The whole thing lasted a good 20 minutes or so, and even our dogs knew this was something special.
One thing that struck me, was how tall the cow was. Moose can have a shoulder height of up to 7-8 feet, and females on average weigh 750 pounds, with the males averaging up to 950 pound. Their front legs are longer than their back legs and they can run fairly fast, up to 35 mph and swim up to 6 mph. You know when a moose is not happy, like a dog, it’s back hairs will stand up straight.
A bull’s antlers can be as wide as 6 feet, and he sheds it every year in the winter to conserve energy. They take about three to five months to fully regrow, making them the fastest growing animal organ. These huge antlers help to funnel sound to their ears (that was a new one on me!).
One thing I learned whilst I was in Alaska is that the word “moose” comes from an Algonquin word meaning “twig eater” – very apt, as they eat up to 50 pounds of plants in a day, much of it being flowering plants and fresh shoots from trees.
In Europe and Russia a moose is called an elk, which is causing confusion in North America, as an elk is an entirely different animal altogether over here. So, with my family being German, you can imagine the confusing conversations; I know when my family says elk they mean moose, however, my husband (whose speaks German very well), still thinks they are referring to an elk and not a moose; so lots of explanations all around by the end of which I usually just give up and let it be. Far too exhausting – trust me, I have been through this a few times now!
The two photos below are my favourite two of the cow from today.