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moose

moose, largest member of the deer family, genus Alces, found in the northern parts of Eurasia and North America. The Eurasian species, A. alces, is known in Europe as the elk, a name which in North America is applied to another large deer, the wapiti. The Eurasian and the American moose are quite similar, but the American moose is somewhat larger and is considered by some to be a separate species, A. americana. It inhabits the coniferous forests of Alaska, Canada, and the northern conterminous United States. The moose has a heavy brown body with humped shoulders, and long, lighter-colored legs, the front pair longer than the hind ones. It has a thick, overhanging, almost trunklike muzzle and a short neck; a flap of skin covered with long hair and called the bell hangs from the throat. The male has broad, extremely flattened antlers, with a spread of up to 6 ft (180 cm). The largest variety is the Alaska moose; the adult male weighs from 1,000 to 1,800 lb (450–820 kg) and stands as much as 71/2 ft (2.3 m) high at the shoulder. Browsers rather than grazers, moose eat leaves, twigs, buds, and the bark of some woody plants, as well as lichens, aquatic plants, and some of the taller herbaceous land plants. Moose live in small groups during the summer, sometimes forming large herds in the winter. They are polygamous, the males becoming very aggressive during the mating season. They are strong swimmers, reportedly crossing lakes many miles wide. Protection in national parks and reserves in Canada and the United States has saved the moose from extermination. Hunting of moose is strictly regulated. The Eurasian moose, or elk, is found from Scandinavia to E Siberia. Moose are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, Class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Cervidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology

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