Moose (Alces alces)


Moose./D. Govatski

General: The moose is the largest member of the deer family in North America. Adults can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Moose inhabit densely wooded areas that have patches of young forest near water. They take shelter from inclement weather in areas of mature, closed-canopy woodlands, and they seek out younger forest for feeding. Moose eat the leaves and branch tips of a variety of shrubs and trees, including willows, balsam fir, aspens, birches, and maples. Moose also go into the water of lakes and ponds to eat aquatic plants and escape from biting insects. Research studies have shown that browsing opportunities are the most important habitat feature influencing moose movements. Ideal feeding habitat is dense young trees and shrubs growing beneath small gaps in the forest canopy or along forest edges – places where moose can find food without having to range too far from protective cover.

Status: In general, the moose population seems stable across most of the species' range. However, in some areas – including northern Minnesota and northern New England – populations have fallen in recent years. Limited young forest feeding habitat may be causing some of this decline; another factor seems to be an increase in the number and prevalence of winter ticks, thousands of which can parasitize a moose, causing significant blood loss and lowering energy levels, in some cases leading to the deaths of individual animals. As of 2015, these states classified moose as Species of Greatest Conservation Need: Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Michigan.

How to Help Moose: Studies suggest that moose populations should increase following forest management practices such as group cuts and even-age timber harvests (also called clearcuts), which increase the amount of browse for moose to feed on.
Both public and private landowners can make young forest habitat. The Young Forest Guide explains how.

Click on the map at left to see a larger image.

Visit a habitat demonstration area within the range of moose to increase your chances of seeing these magnificent animals, as well as the many other kinds of wildlife that need young forest. Learn about moose and their vulnerability to winter ticks from an ongoing research project in New Hampshire.