Only weeks old and protected at the flank of its mother, a moose calf begins to explore its world at the base of the Selkirk Mountains on a pond beside Myrtle creek. The cow and her calf remain in the forest and the willow thickets most of the day it was by chance I got to photograph this rare sight. As the calf grows they will emerge more often to feed on submerged aquatic plants in ponds and streams.
After a gestation period of 8 months the cow gives birth to one or two calves. The average calf weighs in at 25-35 pounds at birth and gains approximately 3-4 pounds per day during the first few months. Calves can run within a few days and swim well within two weeks. The reddish fur changes into brown after about 2-3 months. The calf nurses milk from the mother during the first 7-8 months.
The cow will vigorously defend her offspring using hard, sharp hooves and powerful kicks as weapons. Even though calves can run within a few days of birth, avoiding detection often is a better defense. Calves are much lighter in color than their dark-haired parents and more difficult to see in brush and tall grasses.
Moose are large ungulates (hoofed mammals) identified by their long, rounded snouts; huge, flattened antlers; humped back; thin legs; and massive bodies. These animals live in the northern United States, Canada and Europe. In North America, they are called moose; in Europe, they are called Eurasian elk.
Moose are the largest members of the deer family. They are also the tallest mammals in North America. Their height, from hoof to shoulder, ranges from 5 to 6.5 feet. Males are heavier than females; males weigh 800 to 1,500 pounds while females weigh 600 to 900 pounds.
The largest member of the deer family has short tails, a hump on their shoulders and large ears that can rotate to give them stereophonic hearing. Their fur is generally brown or black and provides excellent insulation from the cold. Only male moose grow antlers and the broad web with extending points give the moose a unique and recognizable appearance. Antlers begin to grow early in the spring from areas attached to the upper skull in front of and above their ears. Bull Moose antlers can grow nearly 7 feet wide from tip to tip and may weigh 50 to 60 pounds. Antlers are only used in fighting for a mate, and they are shed each winter after mating season, which runs from September to October.
Moose live only in areas that have seasonal snow cover. The animals prefer colder climates. They cannot tolerate temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for any extended period because they cannot sweat.
Moose eat a variety of different plants. Available vegetation depending on season dictates their diet. Leaves and small branches of trees and shrubs are common food choices for much of the year. Because they have no upper front teeth, one browsing method is to grip a branch and pull sideways to strip off all the leaves with their tough lips and tongue.
In summer months, water plants such as pondweed and certain types of pond lilies attract moose to lakes and streams. It is common to see moose standing in water with only their heads exposed. They may disappear completely when lowering their head to pull up soft plants. Moose have even been known to dive as deep as 18 feet to grasp the plants they desire.
The moose’s most active times are at sunrise and at sunset. They spend their time finding new grazing spots, eating and resting to let their food digest, while always being wary of nearby predators, which include bears, wolves and cougars.
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