One of the inspiring parts of exploring wild places is discovering an entire world that exists apart from (even if deeply influenced by) the day to day universe that makes up our busy urban lives. Just as we spend our time worrying about jobs, taxes and politics, the inhabitants of the wilderness around us spend their days focussed on food, shelter and staving off competition. In this series of blog posts we will shed a little bit of light on the creatures that spend their lives in the wild areas around Toronto!
Last week’s post was all about Ontario’s big cats, this week, we’ll be talking about the world’s largest deer, also known as the moose.
Moose are easily recognizable, with long horse-like heads, massive muscular bodies and long skinny legs that enable them to trek efficiently through deep snow and muddy ponds and lakes. The moose’s famous shovel-shaped antlers, that can grow upwards of six feet long, are reserved for the males of the species and grow for the mating season (the rut) in September, before falling off for the winter and regrowing again for the following year’s rut. The antlers are used to attract females and to fight off competing males.
Moose are herbivores - the name moose is derived from the Algonquin word “moz” which means ‘twig eater’ - with adults eating as much as 15 - 20kg of plants each day. They are most active during dusk and dawn, when their grey and brown colours make them particularly difficult to see on the road. Crashes between cars and moose are often fatal for both the moose and those sitting in the front seat of the vehicle. Drivers should use extra caution in moose country, especially in the dimly lit dawn and dusk hours when moose are most active.
Moose tend to reside in northern climates as they are well adapted to the cold, and not very well adapted to heat. They will often spend hot summer days mostly submerged in lakes and ponds just to stay cool.
While moose are not typically aggressive towards humans, they can be aggressive during mating season (September) and when with their young calves (born in May-June). As we explained in the previous post, there is no exact science about what to do if you run into any wild animal. That being said as a rule of thumb if you encounter a moose in the wild you should leave plenty of room between yourself and the moose, backing away quickly if necessary. Moose can kick with their front and back feet so keep away on all sides.
Moose’s primary predators in Ontario are black bears and wolves.
Moose can outrun humans at only a few days old and, in their prime, can run as fast as 55km/h
Moose can deep dive over 5m to forage for food at the bottom of a lake and stay under, holding their breath, for a full minute
Moose can swim over 9km/h (the speed of an olympic medalist) and have been seen swimming more than two hours at a time