Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: The inside story regarding moose

Moose derive their name from the Native American word, “Moswa,” meaning “twig eater.”

During the summer, I received a number of information entreaties regarding Alaska wildlife but was remiss in answering a few of them.

All I can do is apologize and explain that we had a much bigger influx of visitors this year. The columns’ email accounts blew up with assorted requests from curious tourists and a few multifarious rants about how my style insults the local intelligentsia. I found the latter criticism to be on point and will strive to upgrade future offerings by registering for online courses on how to pen odes to free range fungi and conduct probing enquiries into the secret world of clam whisperers.

Meanwhile, I’ve reviewed the starred files and found one common focus that dominated the info implorations sent by staid readers reflecting curiosity not authored by those heavily medicated or deeply in need of it.

Surprisingly, eagles, bears and our great fishing didn’t top the list. Instead, another Alaskan wildlife icon, the moose, won top billing. So, without further ado let’s take a closer look at the critter.

The Alaska Moose (Alces alces gigas)

Moose derive their name from the Native American word, “Moswa,” meaning “twig eater” or, according to my wife, “a big hairy, garden snarfing, exit portal of the large intestine”. Note: She is still quite upset at a couple of young bulls that took out part of her flower garden last spring. She has nicknamed them Tenderloin and Porterhouse, which doesn’t bode well for their future should they revisit this fall.

Let’s continue.

Standing up to 7 feet at the shoulders and weighing up to 1,800 pounds (depending on the claims of the one who shot it) the moose is the largest member of the deer family. Due to their size, they have few natural predators except ravenous creatures with fangs and/or camouflaged peeps packin’ large caliber firearms and driving amphibious assault vehicles.

Moose are remarkably agile and capable of running up to speeds of 35 miles per hour. Unfortunately, this capability sucks in 55 mph traffic and results in a multitude of them being prematurely turned into stew meat when they neglect to look both ways before crossing a highway (probably wouldn’t help anyway, they have terrible eyesight). On a higher note, they are able to swim 6 mph up to 10 miles without stopping and have much better luck avoiding direct hits by drift boats and canoes.

Moose are solitary animals. However, during mating season, they will gather in small herds to seek out mates. Females attract males with their loud moaning vocalizations and strong scents (moose have a great sense of smell and hearing). Males put on threatening displays when competing over the females. Sometimes these result in shoving combats but rarely get very serious thus avoiding unfortunate consequences such as acute death. Similar wildlife scenes may be observed in local saloons, usually after last call.

In late May or early June, pregnant females will typically give birth to one calf but twins are also common. Moose calves weigh around 25 pounds and will gain over 2 pounds a day while nursing and are weaned at around five to six months. They are exceptionally cute and appear majorly huggable. This is not a primo idea even if they seem to be abandoned. Ma moose is usually close by and has a tendency to turn anything she feels may threaten her offspring into dirt yogurt. It’s said that she could drop kick a wolf through the center of a set of goal posts from the 50-yard line. A human would be a tougher challenge but she’d still be willing to give it one hell of a shot. She keeps this protective ‘tude for about a year and then runs the kid(s) off if she has new cargo installed in her reproductive launching silo.

Moose are considered fully mature at 4 to 5 years of age and have an average life span of 10 to 15 years plus, as long as more than one brain cell associated with basic survivor skills kicks in during their formative years.

Bonus info: The European Moose (Acles acles acles) that chill in Sweden are smaller and supposedly live 20 to 25 years resulting in the country having the world’s densest population of the critters. This causes a few residents great angst because the massive flatulence emissions from the euro ungulates hypothetically contribute to global warming and the beasts don’t have the capability to share the cost of purchasing carbon offset credits.

Because of column size restraints I won’t be able to cover additional moose facts like their hollow hair, 27 chromosomes, 32 teeth, stylish dewlap and why their front legs are longer than their back ones.

Meanwhile, I hope this column has answered some of questions our visitors have posed about the animal. As for the concern of cerebral critics? Meh …

As for now, if Jane doesn’t cool down soon, I’ll be stalking library aisles hunting down every recipe book with the word “moose” in it if those two cuts of meat darken our lawn this season.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t busy developing his latest work, “How to Approach a Polar Bear Cub”, subtitled, “Sudden Death On An Ice Flo.”

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