Moose, the largest member of the deer family. It inhabits forests in Alaska and other northern parts of the United States and in Canada. The moose is the same animal as the Eurasian elk, which is found throughout northern forests of Europe and Asia, from Scandinavia east to Siberia, Mongolia, and Manchuria.

The mooseThe moose is the largest member of the deer family.

A moose has a heavy body with humped shoulders, long legs, and a short neck and tail. The females (called cows) are slightly smaller than the males (bulls). A large bull moose may stand as high as seven feet (2.1 m) at the shoulder and weigh as much as 1,800 pounds (800 kg). The moose's coat is thick and coarse and is longest on the neck and throat. It is dark-brownish gray or blackish, and lighter gray on the legs.

The moose's muzzle is large, and the upper lip overhangs the lower lip. A long fold of skin, called the bell, hangs from the throat. The bull moose has large palmated (flat and hand-shaped) antlers with many projecting points; they may have a spread of 6 1/2 feet (2 m). The antlers are shed each winter; new ones are grown in the spring and reach their full growth by late summer. The cow has no antlers.

Moose feed on twigs, shoots, bark, moss, grass, and water vegetation. Their long legs carry them at a swift trot on land, and they are excellent swimmers. In winter, several moose may form a herd in order to trample down the deep snow and reach the vegetation growing under it. During the mating season, in the fall, bull moose often fight fierce battles for the cows. In spring, the cows each give birth to one or two calves.

Moose are dangerous but sought-after game animals, and at one time faced extinction by hunters. However, they are now protected by Canadian and United States laws that limit hunters to one or two bulls during a short hunting season. It is illegal to kill a cow moose.

When Do Moose Go Swimming?

Moose live near water. Like most other hoofed mammals, they are herbivores (HUR buh vawrz), or plant-eaters. In the summer, they like to eat plants that grow by rivers and lakes. Moose stick their heads into the water to get food. Sometimes they dive into the water and swim to the bottom to reach the tasty plants growing there.

Water may also help moose escape from insects. Sometimes a moose will stand with its whole body in a river or a lake. It will stick its nose out of the water so that it can breathe. Insects cannot bite a moose when it is underwater.

Being in water also helps a moose escape the extreme summer heat.

Both the Eurasian elk and the American moose are Alces alces of the deer family, Cervidae.