In North America, the moose range includes almost all of Canada (excluding the arctic and Vancouver Island), most of Alaska, northern New England and upstate New York, the upper Rocky Mountains, northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Isle Royale in Lake Superior. This massive range, containing diverse habitats, contains four of the six North American subspecies.
In the West, moose populations extend well north into Canada (British Columbia and Alberta), and more isolated groups have been verified as far south as the mountains of Utah and Colorado and as far west as the Lake Wenatchee area of the Washington Cascades.
The range includes Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and smaller areas of Washington and Oregon. Moose have extended their range southwards in the western Rocky Mountains, with initial sightings in Yellowstone National Park in 1868, and then to the northern slope of the Uinta Mountains in Utah in the first half of the twentieth century. This is the southernmost naturally established moose population in the United States.
Moose require habitat with adequate edible plants (e.g., pond grasses, young trees and shrubs), cover from predators, and protection from extremely hot or cold weather. Moose travel among different habitats with the seasons to address these requirements.
Moose avoid areas with little or no snow as this increases the risk of predation by wolves and avoid areas with deep snow, as this impairs mobility. Thus, moose select habitat on the basis of trade-offs between risk of predation, food availability, and snow depth.
Bull moose have antlers like other members of the deer family. Cows select mates based on antler size. Bull moose use dominant displays of antlers to discourage competition and will spar or fight rivals. The size and growth rate of antlers is determined by diet and age; symmetry reflects health.
Moose are not usually aggressive towards humans, but can be provoked or frightened to behave with aggression. In terms of raw numbers, they attack more people than bears and wolves combined, but usually with only minor consequences. In the Americas, moose injure more people than any other wild mammal, and worldwide, only hippopotamuses injure more.
Moose Population Decline
After expanding for most of the 20th century, the moose population of North America has been in steep decline since the 1990s. Populations expanded greatly with improved habitat and protection, but now the moose population is declining rapidly.
This decline has been attributed to opening of roads and landscapes into the northern range of moose, allowing deer to become populous in areas where they were not previously common. This encroachment by deer on moose habitat brought moose into contact with previously unfamiliar pathogens, and these parasites are believed to have contributed to the population decline of moose.
Moose Size and Weight
On average, an adult moose stands 1.4–2.1 m (4.6–6.9 ft) high at the shoulder, which is more than a foot higher than the next largest deer on average, the wapiti. Males (or “bulls”) normally weigh from 380 to 700 kg (838 to 1,543 lb) and females (or “cows”) typically weigh 200 to 490 kg (441 to 1,080 lb).
The head-and-body length is 2.4–3.1 m (7.9–10.2 ft), with the vestigial tail adding only a further 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in). The largest of all the races is the Alaskan subspecies, which can stand over 2.1 m (6.9 ft) at the shoulder, has a span across the antlers of 1.8 m (5.9 ft) and averages 634.5 kg (1,399 lb) in males and 478 kg (1,054 lb) in females. Typically, however, the antlers of a mature bull are between 1.2 m (3.9 ft) and 1.5 m (4.9 ft). The largest confirmed size for this species was a bull shot at the Yukon River in September 1897 that weighed 820 kg (1,808 lb) and measured 2.33 m (7.6 ft) high at the shoulder.