The moose is the largest member of the deer family, as well as one of the tallest mammals (second to the bison) that inhabit North America. Moose are most noted for their huge antlers (which only the males have). The antlers can span six feet across, from tip to tip, and are quite heavy; they can actually weigh up to seventy pounds!
The moose has a long face; a flap of skin called a bell or a dewlap that hangs under its throat; large ears; a humped back; a short tail; and a massive body. It also has long, thin legs. The front legs are longer than the rear legs, which helps when the moose needs to jump over fallen trees and other obstacles in the forest. Its thick fur, which is usually brown, keeps the moose nice and warm in cold environments.
The height of a moose, from hoof to shoulder, can exceed six and a half feet, while its weight can be over 1500 pounds. And this is not even including the moose’s antlers! The females, however, are not as tall or as heavy as the males.
Moose prefer to live in colder climates and usually inhabit areas that have seasonal snow cover. In the winter, they inhabit forests, and during the summer, they tend to live in areas close to rivers and streams. You can find moose living in the northern United States, Canada, and Europe.
Moose usually do most of their activities at sunrise and at sunset. Activities include searching for new grazing areas, eating, and resting.
Although the moose is a huge beast, it is an herbivore and fills itself up by consuming large amounts of grasses and plants.
In the warm months, the moose will graze on the leaves, twigs of hardwood and softwood trees, and shrubs. It will even venture into streams, lakes, and rivers to feed on aquatic plants such as pondweed and water lilies.
In the winter, the moose eats pinecones, shrubs, and woody plants like the twigs and bark of the willow and dogwood trees. It will also use its large hooves to dig beneath the snow to find any remaining mosses.
Although the moose is a peaceful animal, it can become very aggressive – toward both humans and animals – if it feels threatened. Unfortunately, some people do provoke these peaceful creatures, and that is why there are more recorded moose attacks on people than attacks from bears and wolves combined. Thankfully, the injuries incurred by a moose attack are generally minor.
The moose is a powerful but peaceful creature that is content living a tranquil life. This gentle giant prefers to keep to itself and mind its own business. However, if the need arises to stand tall and protect itself and its family from outside dangers, the moose immediately becomes a fierce and aggressive warrior and will do everything in its power to defeat its enemy.
This behavior is an honorable trait and one that we should learn from. Of course we should all “love peace and pursue peace,” but if someone provokes us and prevents us from serving Hashem properly, then we are obligated to take immediate action and defend the honor of the Torah (of course in a way that is sanctioned by the Torah).
A perfect example of this conduct can be found with Pinchas, the grandson of Aharon Hakohen. Aharon Hakohen was known as the quintessential ohev shalom v’rodef shalom – the one who loved peace and pursued peace. Pinchas, his grandson, was also a tremendous tzaddik who loved peace. Yet when a terrible chillul Hashem occurred, with the public and shameless sinning of Zimri Ben Salu, Pinchas did not stand by quietly. He immediately got up to defend Hashem’s honor and killed Zimri.
Hashem was pleased with Pinchas’s action and rewarded him for it. Indeed, there is a time and place for everything; there is a time for peace and a time for standing up to defend one’s values.
The Circle of Life
The female moose, called a cow, gives birth during the late spring or early summer. She usually gives birth to one calf, although she can give birth to two calves, too. The calf is able to stand on its own within the first day of its life.
A newborn calf weighs around three pounds at birth, but it grows up rather quickly. The calf gains around two pounds per day while nursing. Within a couple of weeks after birth, the young calf is even able to swim.
The young moose has reddish fur that turns to brown as it matures. After around six weeks, the calf is weaned from its mother, but it still remains close to her until the next spring, before a new calf is born.
Although the mother moose is very protective of her young, many calves do not make it past six weeks of age, due to predators such as bears and wolves. The mother moose does not have antlers to defend herself, but she will use her mighty hooves to fight back any predators. She will also charge and deliver powerful and deadly kicks to defeat enemies.
Once a moose becomes a mature adult (usually between four and six years of age), it can usually live up to twenty-five years in the wild.
Due to its strength and size, an adult moose does not have many predators to be wary of. Brown bears, grizzlies, and packs of wolves, however, do a pose a threat to even an adult moose and will attack it. The moose will fight back and protect itself; it is even capable of killing bears and wolves in self-defense.
Young moose or ailing adult moose have many more predators in the wild. They include small bears, cougars, wolverines, and wolves.
The moose is an excellent swimmer. However, while swimming in the water, the moose has another serious predator to watch out for: the killer whale. These huge orcas are known to prey upon moose, especially in the waters leading out of North America’s northwest coast.