Lifespan: 15-20 years
Wild Diet: Grasses, leaves, aquatic plants and wildflowers
Zoo Diet: Browse plants, especially willow and Moose chow
Predators: Bear, wolves and possibly mountain lion for young
IUCN Status: Least Concern
Habitat/Range: High mountain forest edges and wetlands in the northernmost parts of North America
Characteristics: Moose are the largest members of the deer family and the tallest mammals native to North America. Bulls range to 9 1/2 feet long, six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 800-1200 lbs. They have black or very dark brown hair and large heads with a dewlap of skin, called a "bell," hanging down from their jaw. Moose have long legs enabling them to wade into a lake and eat plants off the bottom or paw through deep snow to reach food in winter. Male moose grow palmate antlers that fall off each fall and grow back starting in late winter. The antlers can grow to be six feet across in only three to five months.
Behavior: Moose are semi-aquatic animals and great swimmers. In the fall, males in rut can be quite aggressive, thrashing shrubs with their antlers, bellowing and moaning and challenging other males. An agitated bull moose can sprint up to 35 miles an hour and may charge anything in its path. In the spring, cows with calves will also charge if they are surprised or feel threatened by someone's presence. To ensure safety, keep at least the distance of a football field between you and them.
Reproduction: Moose breeding season, or rut, is late September through October. Bulls set up territories and attract cows with a low resonating call. Bulls and cows are aggressive during the breeding season, with bulls often fighting head to head until the dominate bull drives off, injures, or even kills the challenger. Cows give birth in May and June. Twins are common in good habitat.
Conservation: Moose are typically found in the northernmost parts of North America, with northern Colorado being the southernmost part of their range, so historically only stragglers wandered into the northern part of the state from Wyoming and Utah. In 1978, private donations allowed the Colorado Division of Wildlife to transplant 12 moose from Utah to willow habitat along the Illinois River, near Walden, CO. With several other introductions and successful breeding seasons, moose now have a strong hold in Colorado. As of 2008, it was estimated that nearly 1,000 moose live in Colorado, statewide. Not only do they provide recreational opportunities for sportspeople, but they also have become a main attraction for all those who enjoy watching wildlife. In recognition of this, the Colorado state legislature designated Walden as the "Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado" in 1995. Watching wildlife is always enjoyable, but it can also be dangerous. It's important to be aware of your surroundings while hiking in moose territory and avoid confronting one. Always keep at least a football field's distance between you and them. If you surprise one, back away slowly giving them as much space as possible. Never run.