Though sightings are very rare, there are more moose sightings in Luce County than any other county in the state, making Newberry the Official Moose Capital of Michigan. When spotted, most sightings occur in the Tahquamenon Falls State Park and north of Newberry. The area and terrain is a perfect setting for the lifestyle of the elusive species as they prefer areas associated with water, ponds and swamps. Luce County is 908 square miles (581,120 acres), with over 300,000 acres that are public access land. With 15,000 rivers and streams, 53% of the County is made up of water. With few roads through a great portion of this area, you’ll need to be an experienced hiker willing to go off the beaten path. Below, we will give you the insider scoop on where to spot moose as well as some facts you may not know about these large members of the deer family.
There is plenty of information to know about the moose, from its predators and structure to its diet and habitat. And that’s not even scratching the surface! Here’s everything to know about moose.
Moose live only in areas that have seasonal snow cover, for example, the four seasons. These animals prefer colder climates. They cannot tolerate temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for long because they cannot sweat, and the fermentation caused by their digestion creates a large amount of heat, according to Animal Diversity Web (ADW), a database maintained by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology. When it is cold, their hollow fur helps to insulate them and their wide hooves act like built-in snowshoes, helping the moose walk in the snow.
Moose have very few natural predators, and as such, they are not as keen to danger as many other members of the deer family. Their sense of sight is not as good either, but they do still have a strong sense of hearing and smell. In spring, moose are found in open habitats like meadows and fields where the grazing is plentiful. Spring is also the birthing season for the moose. The spring to summer change of season sees moose move into habitats characterized by heavy forest cover and that continues perhaps even more so during the fall—moose mating season. Early winter produces a dramatic shift of moose into open habitats. In mid-winter and late winter, moose retreat to habitats with heavy forecast cover until they enter open areas in the spring again. In North America, the moose is found in Alaska, Canada, the northeastern United States and as far south as the rocky mountains in Colorado. The moose population in North America is estimated to be fewer than 1.5 million animals, with 1 million in Canada. Up to 200,000 live in Alaska. They must love the cold there!
Bull moose or moose bulls is the name given to male moose; the female moose is known as cow moose or moose cow, and their offspring is called a calf or calf moose. These mammals are the largest members of the deer family and the tallest mammal in North America. It stands 4-6 feet tall from shoulders to feet. Females weigh between 800 to 1,300 pounds, and males weigh about 1,200 to 1,600 pounds.
A moose’s front legs are longer than its back legs. This helps the moose to jump over things in its path more easily. You may have noticed the hump on a moose’s back — that’s caused by their massive shoulder muscles. The flap of skin that hangs below a moose’s chin is called a bell, according to National Geographic.
The normal body temperature of a Moose is 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit. They have two methods of defense for when they get too hot: one is panting and the other is to seek shade. Sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the temperature that sends moose scurrying for shade, and any temperatures above this cause heat stress amongst them. Cold on the other hand seems to have no effect on moose. Even calf moose have been observed in temperatures as low as negative thirty degrees without seeking the shelter of the forest.
Their antlers are heavy and large — just like they look. They weigh 50-60 pounds and grow up to 6 feet in width. The largest measured pair of antlers were 7 feet in width! The main purpose of the antlers are to attract females and to defeat other males during a fight for their affection. Moose are best known for their antlers from early spring to late autumn. Antlers will drop off before winter but the next year, male moose will develop even bigger antlers. They are the fastest-growing organ in moose.
The main predators of Moose in North America are wolves, black bears, grizzly bears and humans. Wolves, black bears and grizzly bears have been known to go after a full-grown moose, but it is more likely they will go after a young calf or a moose between the ages of one and four years old. They will also scavenge after the moose has died.
Moose calves are not fully grown until they are four to six years of age, though many never make it to adulthood. Around 50% of calves die due to bear or wolf attacks before they are six weeks old, according to the ADW. Once they are adults, they have a survival rate of up to 95%.
You would think it would make sense that the giant antlers of male moose are their most powerful weapons; however, their strong feet are used more effectively. A bull moose will charge and their behavior is unpredictable. A cow with calves is extremely protective. If a moose feels danger, it will not tolerate the threat. It will charge and stomp the offender with its hooves.
Animals aren’t the only predators that pose a threat — parasites do, too. Moose also have serious threats from certain snails that carry a parasite called brain worm. They frequently ingest small snails while foraging in warm, shallow water. Brain worms cause neurological damage that can be fatal to a moose, but interestingly enough, all other members of the deer family often carry brain worms and are unaffected by them. Another serious threat that affects moose is actually a fatal disease that is passed onto moose by white-tailed deer, called “moose disease.”
You may not have guessed it from Bullwinkle’s cartoons, but these guys are twig eaters. Their name is the Algonquin term for exactly that. The moose is a browser, an herbivore. In warm months it eats the leaves, twigs and buds of hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs. They seem to prefer willows and aspens. It also feeds on aquatic plants for sodium like water lilies. In the winter, the moose browses on woody plants like the twigs and bark of willow, balsam, birch, aspen and dogwood trees.
Moose have four-chambered stomachs like cows. They regurgitate partially digested food and “chew their cud.” Food is fermented in the first chamber and nutrients are extracted in the next three. Unlike most hooved, domesticated animals, moose cannot digest hay, and feeding it to a moose can be fatal. In general, you should not be feeding any moose you spot while in Tahquamenon Country. They are certainly not going hungry in our wilderness! The moose’s varied and complex diet is typically expensive for humans to provide, and free-range moose require a lot of forested acreage for sustainable survival, which is one of the main reasons moose have never been widely domesticated.
Males and females have the same height, but range in weight. Due to their large size, they need to eat a lot of food. Their stomachs may hold up to 112 pounds of food at one time, which is about 9,770 calories per day to maintain their body weight! They have 32 teeth in total to help them chew and their front teeth are missing. Imagine eating your favorite meals without those!
Moose are born excellent swimmers. They can swim six miles per hour without a break for two hours! A moose can also dive up to 20 feet underwater. They have been known to swim without stopping at a stretch of 10 miles and can remain submerged for 30 seconds. On top of that, they can run at a speed of 35 miles per hour and can go non-stop for 15 miles. Thank goodness we didn’t have to do that in gym class.
Pregnancy in females lasts about 8 months (231 days), and it ends with the birth of one or, on rare occasions, twin calves. Within their first day of life, calves can stand up on their own. They weigh about 35 pounds at birth and will grow very quickly, gaining 2.2 pounds per day while they are nursing. They stay with their mother until next year when new calves will be born. Moose live 15-25 years in the wild and 20-25 years in captivity.