When it comes to exploring the Canadian wilderness, nothing quite sparks our national imagination like watching beaver building a dam or hearing the call of a loon. One of our favourites sights though, is spotting a moose (from a safe distance, of course).
Here are 15 things that you might not know about one of Canada’s most ubiquitous animals:
1. Moose is the largest living species of the deer family. And Alaskan moose is the largest subspecies, with adult males weighing as much as 1,500 pounds.
2. Confusingly, moose are known as “Eurasian elk” in the UK and most of Europe. The etymology of “moose” is rooted in Algonquin languages and likely means “he strips off,” referring to the fact that they eat tree bark.
3. As herbivores, moose can eat up to 12 kilograms of food in a day. Primarily, their diet consists of bark, leaves, and twigs, as well as berries and aquatic plants.
4. Most moose are found in northern climates such as Canada, Alaska, the Baltic States, Scandinavia, and Russia. At one point, their range included Western Europe, the UK, and even parts of the Middle East.
5. In 2011, the first moose calf was born in Scotland since 900 AD. Extinct in the UK, two breeding moose were relocated to a reserve in 2008 as part of an effort to reintroduce wild animals that once roamed the area.
6. Moose are solitary animals. Although they may be seen together in the same feeding grounds, they typically ignore one another, only coming together during mating season.
7. In the 1930s, the USSR attempted to domesticate moose. Strong and with an ability to easily traverse through snow, they were trained as pack and passenger animals.
8. Moose milk is commercially farmed in Russia. It’s marketed for the treatment of chronic disease and conditions, such as ulcers and radiation lesions.
9. Moose cheese sells for around $500/kilogram. Only produced at one farm in Sweden, it’s difficult and time-consuming to make.
10. Milk is not the only thing moose have in common with cows—they also chew their cud. With a four-chambered stomach for processing food, they can store up to 45 kilograms of food.
11. Despite their size, moose are strong swimmers. They can swim for kilometres at a time and stay completely submerged for 30 seconds or more.
12. Because of their size, healthy adult moose have few natural predators. However, orcas have been known to prey on moose swimming between islands in British Columbia.
13. However, they aren’t immune to parasites and “ghost moose” sightings increase every year. Winter ticks cause moose to rub off their brown fur, exposing their pale undercoat and skin.
14. Adult moose use their antlers—also called “paddles”—to fight. Although rare, they can die from starvation if the antlers become locked.
15. The hanging flap of skin on a moose’s throat is called a “bell” or dewlap. Larger on bulls, the bell’s purpose is unclear.