Any animal that appears large at 600 yards is large! There were two moose at the north end of the wetland about 1,800 feet off in the distance. There was gentle magic in the air as the bull and cow ambled through three feet of water and reeds. As they moved closer, they would lovingly bump up against each other and nudge a bit with their noses, and it was a pleasure to watch.
In Kootenai Country Montana, the largest antlered animal in the world is an exciting species to see! The big male bulls can weigh 800-1300 pounds and their palmate antlers...
with the broad, flat design are unique. The female cows are antlerless, and tip the scales at 500-800 pounds. Moose (Alces alces) are also referred to as Shiras moose in Montana. The coat is a dark chocolate brown to black. Some unique features include the large, overhanging snout which helps the moose harvest aquatic plants as muscles in the nose close the nostrils, preventing water from entering the nose. Moose are browsers and diet includes aquatic plants, large saplings, woody shrubs, and tender shoots. The sensitive upper lip helps distinguish between woody twigs and soft water plants and is prehensile for grasping vegetation. Numerous molars help grind up woody twigs. A strange looking dewlap occurs in both sexes and appears as a flap of skin beneath the lower jaw.
Moose inhabit mountain meadows, riparian valleys, swampy areas, wetlands, and openings where vegetation is regrowing such as old fire sites and clear-cuts in summer, and mature coniferous forests and birch-willow flats in winter. Moose are great swimmers and can swim for miles, and their long legs aid them in deep water and snow. The front legs are longer than the back, which gives them a unique posture. Although moose have rather poor eyesight, they are formidable adversaries. In defense mode, they utilize powerful bodies, large heavy antler racks, and are surprisingly flexible with sharp pointed hooves and can kick in all directions including sideways. Moose can be tenacious, and cows overly protective of calves.
Predators of adult, juvenile, and calf moose in our area include grizzly bears, black bears, wolf packs, mountain lions and wolverines. The Shiras moose are generally solitary, but may congregate during the rut or on exceptionally good winter range. These magnificent animals breed in September or early October, and shed their antlers in the December/January time period. In the spring, one or two russet brown calves are born without spots.
Native American peoples of our area historically valued moose highly for the meat, and made a pemmican jerky for a source of sustenance for long journeys. Moose hide leather is thick and water resistant, and was used to make tepees, robes, and moccasins. The modern day peoples of Kootenai Country Montana still take pleasure in seeing these unique creatures as they roam together in the wetlands of our beautiful corner of the world.
(Author’s Note: Reference Identification of Montana’s Big Game Animals, O’Gara.)