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Shrias Moose - Alces Alces 

Moose - Images by Daryl Hunter

four bull moose brawling in Grand Teton National Park
Four bull moose brawling in Grand Terton National Park

The Shiras Moose also known as Wyoming moose, is the smallest of North America’s moose however it is still quite large. The Shiras moose are found in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, British Columbia, and in isolated areas of Utah, Colorado, and Washington.

 The Shiras Bull Moose has smaller antlers than the Canada moose. Its body color is a rusty-brown to black with pale-brownish saddle and its legs are gray to white. The Shiras cow moose are slightly smaller than the male and does not have antlers. The bulls can grow to seven feet tall at the shoulder and can reach10 feet in length. Mature Shira's moose weigh 600 to 1400 pounds. The cow moose weigh between 500 and 1200 pounds. Bull Moose have antlers that can span five feet and weigh up to 50 pounds. It has smaller antlers than the Canada moose and the antlers are shed between November and January.

Bull Moose, Grand Teton, landscape, Jackson Hole, wyomiing
Moose drools after sipping moss off the bottom of a pond in Grand Teton National Park

Breeding occurs from mid-September through mid-October. Cow moose attract males with both calls and the scent of estrous. Bulls as do all ungulates engage in fights with other bulls to win the right to breed the cow moose. Bull moose behavior during mating season includes scraping their antlers on trees, creating wallows to roll in, not eating causing large weight loss and they become more aggressive than usual and may charge at people and cars.

Cows start breeding at one and a half years old. Gestation is approximately 230 days. Most calves are born near the end of May. Cows usually give birth to one offspring but if the range is healthy two calves aren’t uncommon. Calves have reddish-brown coats and weigh 24 to 35 pounds at birth. A yearling calf will stay with its mother until new calves are born. Calves weigh 300 to 400 pounds by fall.

Moose habitat varies with the season. In spring and summer they can be found in marshy areas, meadows as well as higher elevations. During winter moose prefer forest but can often be found in valley bottoms eating willow bushes. Before the fall rut bulls tend to remain in one area for long periods of time.

Mother and baby moose, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Mother and newborn moose share a moment in Grand Teton National Park

Moose are browsers and feed on leaves twigs, bark, and buds of trees and shrubs. In the summer moose feed heavily on aquatic plants and can often be found with their head under water eating something off the bottom of a pond. Moose will eat about 50 pounds of food a day. In the winter the best place to look for them is in the bogs that are rich in the willow bushes they thrive on in winter.

It is said in Alaska that the most dangerous animal in Alaska is the moose. It is not that moose are more fierce or aggressive than bears, it is because more people are injured and killed by moose because many people think that moose are giant cartoon characters and consequently don’t give them the room they need to feel comfortable. Most animals have a “fight or flight distance” the shorter an animals fight or flight distance is the more likely they will fight instead of flee. Moose, bear and bison all have short fight or flight distances.  The lesson being When observing or photographing moose don’t mistake their docile inspection of you as tameness because they are just trying to figure out if they want to trot into the woods or to kill you.

Bull moose, Grand Teton Mountains, Grand Teton National park
Bull Moose Grand Teton Mountains

Hunting Moose

Hunting Moose is most productive early and late in the day when the bull moose are most active as they snooze during the day. In much of their range, Shiras moose can be hunted on public land without a guide. When Hunting for moose look both on the forested lowlands, lower mountain elevations and canyon bottoms. They can often be found in or near water, grazing on aquatic plants or willows. When you find a promising area, head out in the mornings and evenings to glass likely moose spots, such as willow stands lakeshores, mountain meadows, and other forest openings. During the day, moose climb to vantagepoints to rest in the shade. During the fall hunting season, keep on the lookout for rubbed trees and pellet-like moose droppings called moose nuggets. Bull Moose begin rubbing in early September, both rubbed trees and moose nuggets are good telltales of the nearby presence of bull moose.

Moose often live in areas with good public hunting and vehicular access try to locate a bull off the beaten path. Chances are good that other hunters have spotted any moose you scout right near the road also.

Moose have good senses of smell and hearing. To avoid detection by moose, pay attention to wind direction hunt or stalk with the wind in your face, regularly monitor the wind direction

Moose walking the shore of Two Ocean Lake dring autumn in Grand Teton National Park,
This baby moose appears to have just left the beauty parlor

Tracking moose is a popular tactic, light, soft snow is ideal both for seeing the tracks and moving quietly through the woods. Wherever moose are found in relatively open terrain, spot-and-stalk hunting is a popular and effective.

Some say the most exciting and way to hunt moose is to call them in, bull moose are particularly active and vulnerable during the rut, all they have is one thing on their mind and it isn’t safety. A cow-in-heat call or an antler rattle can draw out a bull. Antler scraping sounds on trees and shrubs can be used in early September. In many areas bulls can also be located or called in by imitating the grunt made by male moose during the rut. Also, aggressive bulls can be brought into gun or bow range by raking trees and brush with an object that sounds like antlers on brush.

Baby moose, beautiful, Yellowstone National Park
This baby moose appears to have just left the beauty parlor

Another hunting option is by floating in a boat or canoe. This way you can silently put the sneak on them while they are eating or drinking. Hunting from the water during the rut has long been an effective way for many hunters to hunt moose on lakes or rivers. When floating a river, the best areas to look for moose include oxbows, off-stream ponds, large grassy flats, islands and any places where the river widens and forms calmer waters. Look for evidence of moose using the area; if fresh sign is present, you’ve discovered a suitable place to pull ashore and start calling. This is best accomplished by fishing the are extensively ahead of time; multitasking is an invaluable skill.

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