This field notes entry was inspired by some events from earlier this week, so I am going to start with that story. Early morning Tuesday, I was making my tea, I have this little ritual of making tea while emptying the dishwasher and then put it in a travel mug and come back to it about an hour later. I suppose its a bit of eccentricity of mine. However, while making tea, I was standing by the sick, happened to glance up and saw a moose trotting down the street. Not something you see often living in a suburban setting. The moose trotted to the stop street at the base of the driveway, stood there for a minute as other cars came down the road behind it before taking off again and disappearing into a cul-de-sac further down the road. I didn't have enough time to get my camera unfortunately, but hopefully next time.
Now, onto the field notes. This entry is about the moose...at least that what its called in North America. In Europe its called the Elk...which is another name for the Wapiti in North America. (Its all a bit confusing). Either way, we will be talking about the creature in the photo below.
They are the largest member of the deer family (Cervidae). Once found through most of the Northern Hemisphere, they are still quite numerous depending on where you go. They are still found in large portions of Canada, Alaska, New York and New England. In Europe they are found throughout Scandinavia and parts of Russia as far east as the Kamchatka peninsula. In Canada there is an Estimated 1 million moose, with about 300 000 in the United States. Russia and Sweden also have large numbers of the animals at an estimated 600 000 and 300 000 animals respectively.
Like most other members of the Cervidae family, its the bulls that generally grow antlers. If females grow antlers it is usually attributed to a hormone imbalance. Like other species of the deer family, bulls will shed their antlers yearly after the mating season. They then regrow the antlers in the spring when food is abundant. Mature males, usually between the ages of 5 and 12 years can have antlers that spread greater than 2 meters. The antlers are covered by skin and large amounts of blood vessels while they are growing and can take about 3 to 5 months to grow making them the fastest growing animal organs.
A really interesting fact about moose antlers is that a study from 2008 suggests that moose with antlers can hear better than moose without. Basically, the study suggests that the antlers act as parabolic reflectors for the sound allowing the moose to hear better. You can read more about that study here.
Since the moose spans such a vast amount of space, their diet can vary quite significantly depending on whats around. There are some similarities in the types of food they eat though. It seems they prefer younger plants and saplings that have higher sugar concentration. They also eat many aquatic plants as they don't tend to be as woody as their terrestrial cousins.
There is so much more to these fascinating creatures but I will end it here today and break it down into bite size features for you. Stay tuned for our next bit of field notes.
P.S. What is your favourite deer?