Moose

A bull moose in front of spruce trees
A bull moose can leave one in awe of his majesty.

NPS / J. Mills

 
A bull moose feeds on vegetation amid pink fireweed flowers
Summer vegetation is a feast for hungry moose.

NPS Photo/J. Mills

Moose (Alces alces) are the largest member of the deer family. They, along with caribou, are the only members of the deer family in the Lake Clark area. Moose are found below treeline in transition areas between forest and tundra, between aquatic and terrestrial environments, and in areas that have been burned or disturbed.

An adult male (bull) moose can weigh as much as 1,600 pounds and females (cows) can reach 1,300 pounds. They have extremely long legs that enable them to wade into lakes and rivers and through deep snow. Their hair ranges from golden brown to nearly black and they have a very large head with a dewlap of skin, called a "bell," under the chin.

Only the bulls have antlers. Their large antlers are palmate, meaning that they have a flattened area like the palm of your hand, with the fingers or "tines" pointing up, usually curving back inward.

The diet of moose varies widely between the seasons. During the fall and winter, moose consume large quantities of willow, birch, and aspen twigs. In the spring and summer they eat sedges, horsetail, grasses and aquatic vegetation.

Reproduction

Moose mate in late September and early October. The bulls will use their antlers to spar with each other during the breeding season, also known as rut. During the this time, bulls can be extremely territorial and dangerous. The antlers that they grew in spring and summer are shed by early winter, once the breeding season ends. The breeding season is one of the few times moose will gather in small groups. They are otherwise solitary creatures and live most their lives by themselves.

Cows remain pregnant for about 8 months and calving occurs in late May through early June. Calves are born with a reddish brown coat with no spots and their coat darkens with age. Cows often have twins and sometimes triplets. Park wildlife biologists regularly conduct surveys of moose in the interior of the park and preserve and have found the populations have been on the decline since the late 1990s.

Human Interactions

Moose are the most hunted big game species in Alaska. An average of 7,000 animals are harvested each year, providing more than three million pounds of meat. In the summer months, moose blend in well to their environment and can be surprisingly hard to see for such large animals. They are likely to stand their ground even when they hear people approaching, so pay close attention to your surroundings, especially in prime moose habitat such as willow thickets or around streams or ponds.

Enjoy viewing them from a distance. Stay at least 25 yards (25 m) away from moose. Cow moose are extremely defensive of their young so use extra caution around cows with calves - don't get between a mother and her calf. Moose aren’t inherently aggressive, but will defend themselves if they feel threatened. It is important not to put yourself at risk by encroaching upon the animal's personal space.

If you encounter a moose at close distance...

  • If it hasn’t detected you yet, keep it that way and increase your distance.

  • If it knows you’re there, talk to it softly and slowly while backing away.

  • Don’t be aggressive – convince the moose that you aren’t a threat.

  • If you think the moose is going to charge you, take cover or run away. Unlike with bears, it is okay to run from a moose.

Last updated: February 20, 2018

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Port Alsworth, AK 99653

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