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Jackson Hole Wildlife, Part 6: Moose

Welcome back to our Wildlife of Jackson Hole series! This is the sixth installment, which basically makes it a very antler-heavy Return of the Jedi.*  Today: moose!

A moose.
A bull moose surveys his dominion.

Latin name: Alces alces

How big are they?

Moose are the largest members of the deer family, weighing up to 1200 pounds. To sustain their bulk, they have to eat about 75 pounds of plants a day in the summer and 35 in the winter. 

So how big are those antlers, then?

Bulls (males) develop some seriously swole necks to lift up 65-pound antlers that can get six feet across, after which they parade around casually showing off how much they can lift to the females in the hopes of finding a mate, so it’s a wonder you don’t see more of them at my gym in the morning. 

What’s up with that thing on their chin?

That’s called a “bell” or a “dewlap.” And honestly, we don’t really know what it does. (We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t puzzle out the function of a flap of skin on a giant deer. Yay, science.) It might be to spread urine on their mating area, which would be weird, but this is a judgment-free blog. One thing we do know is that in cold weather, the bell can freeze off. Ouch.

Where does the name come from?

The word “moose” comes from the Algonquin word for “stripper of bark.” This, of course, comes from the moose’s habit of stripping the bark off of trees in the winter when food becomes scarce. 

What’s the plural of “moose”?

Still “moose.”

What do you call a baby?

That would be a “mooseling.” Just kidding—it’s a calf. 

Did you recently see a bunch of moose?

I did—thank you for asking. Last May my wife and I went cycling from Jackson Hole to Teton Village, where we were promised lots of moose. They actually turned out to be pretty scarce on that day. However, a few weeks ago we went to Alaska, where saw at least 14 of them, mostly in mother-child pairs. 

What else should I know about them?

  • Moose are born with an innate ability to swim. They can even dive up to 5 meters underwater when searching for food. 
  • In Europe, the creatures we call moose are called elk. That’s because the Norwegian word for moose is, confusingly, “elg.”
  • Their front hooves are powerful enough to kill wolves. 

Want to see some moose? Try the bike ride my wife and I did and maybe you’ll be luckier than we were in the moose-sighting department. Start your trek at Flat Creek Inn. Call to book today.

Read previous posts in this series here: bald eagle, bear, wolf.

*Or Revenge of the Sith if you’re going by release order.

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