largest member of the deer family, moose in North America range across a
broad band of forest that extends from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains,
into Alaska, and as far south as Colorado.
The Latin name Alces
means "elk" in English, a term erroneously used by the first American
settlers for the North American elk (Cervus elaphus) or "wapiti."
Historically in Eurasia, the moose is referred to as the elk and red deer
has been synonymous with wapiti. Presently in Eurasia, the terms elk and
moose are synonymous. The present moose Alces
alces appeared in Europe about 0.5 million years ago.
The impressive antler
rack of a male moose grows every year during the spring and summer.
Throughout the growing period, antlers are covered with a soft,
fine-haired nourishing skin called "velvet". In August, the moose rubs the
velvet off on brush and trees, revealing the solid mass of bone that has
dried and hardened, or ossified, by summer's end.
Moose have a distinctive
flap of skin hanging from its lower jaw. This is called the "bell" or the
"dewlap" and its function in unknown. Dewlaps vary in size and appearance,
you may be able to distinguish particular moose by their dewlaps.
Moose are vegetarian.
Hearing and smell are the moose strongest senses. Their eyesight is not
Female moose first become
sexually active at 1.4 or 2.4 years of age. Breeding season occurs in
autumn. Fetal development begins after fertilization of the egg and
continues during a 216- to 240-day gestation period that terminates at
calving in late May. Triplets are rare in moose. In good habitat, chances
of producing twins increases.
Eastern or Taiga
Moose (Alces alces americana)
Cows weigh 700-900
lbs. while bulls weigh 1,000-1,200 lbs. A full-grown moose measures about
9 feet long from nose to tail and about 7 feet tall at the shoulder.
Before mating season, the front hoof width of a prime bull is maximum and
measures about 5 inches. The hoof width of a cow is 3.7 inches. Hoof width
of calves in autumn is around 2.8 inches. Antler spread rarely exceeds 65
inches, a very good spread is 55 inches. The maximum dry weight of antlers
is about 40 lbs. Most prime antlers are of butterfly-type and
well-developed front palms are less frequent than in the Alaskan moose.
Generally, prime bulls have a brow-tine ramified into three
or four points. Yearlings carry second antlers as massive spikes.
Tundra Moose (Alces alces gigas)
Cows weigh up to 1,100
lbs. Bulls weigh 1,500 lbs. or possibly more. Length of adult moose varies
from 9.5 to 10 feet long. Frontal hoof width of prime bulls is about 5.5
inches and 4.3 inches in prime cows. Alaskan/Yukon moose antlers are
bipalmated, with well expressed brow palms. Antler spread of 82.7 inches
has been recorded. Antler weight is 64 lbs. maximum, average 44 to 55 lbs.
Substantially higher than in taiga moose.
and Management of the North American Moose.
Smithsonian Institution Press.
Copyright © 1997 by the Wildlife
Patience is perhaps the
most important factor to obtain good pictures of moose. Learning about their
behavior and habits beforehand goes hand in hand with having patience. From my observations, Moose in the
northeast are not normally aggressive; nonetheless, always exercise
caution. Moose could become aggressive when they are harassed by people or
traffic, or when they are hungry or tired. Also be aware of any cows with
calves. As with any other animals, they can be fierce in protecting their
young. Resist the temptation to chase or to approach moose; they may not
see you or become winded, and if you are too close when they recognize
your presence you may be setting yourself up for injury.
Just be patient and be prepared to shoot when the moose senses you nearby;
it may turn its head to look at you and cock its ears forward. Generally
uttermost respect for any type of wildlife will render the best and more
pictures, the short telephoto lenses and even the wide angle lenses are
useful. However, 300 mm lenses or longer are better for moose and wildlife
photography; they bring the subject closer while allowing us to
keep the physical distance. Like most wildlife photographers, I
particularly favor a fast 500 mm lens or longer for wildlife. Top camera
like Canon or Nikon both offer 500 or 600 mm f/4 lenses. This type of lenses
also provide a shallower depth of field; thus, making it easier for
isolating the subject. If you wish to learn more about the depth of field,
here is a link that offers good information:
Depth of Field.
Nowadays, with the magnification
factor that several digital SLR cameras provide, the shorter telephoto
lenses have become more useful
for photographing wildlife. Here are some of the choices:
- Nikon 300 mm f/2.8 plus the 1.4X, 1.7X or 2X teleconverters. In my
opinion, this is the best lens that Nikon
has ever made. It is very sharp and there is minimal loss of light or
focusing speed when used with the
teleconverters. Understand that its
Canon counterpart is an excellent lens as well.
- Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 VR plus the 1.4 or 1.7X teleconverters. The
focusing slows down when used
with the 2X teleconverter, so I avoid using the 70-200 + 2X combination for flight
shots of birds. Other than
that, it is an excellent, medium telephoto zoom lens for moose
- Nikon 200-400 mm f/4 VR. This lens has become very popular among
Nikon users. However, I had the
opportunity to try it with the 1.4 and 1.7 teleconverters and find that
its focusing slows down
comparison to the other two previous lens combinations listed above. It
offers a very good range, but it would
not be my choice of lens for action photography. If its range is long
enough for you without the teleconverters,
then go for it.
- Canon or Nikon also offer the 400 mm f/2.8; an excellent lens,
although as heavy and bulky as the
500 or 600 mm f/4, but with a shorter range.
- Nikon 80-400 mm f/5.6 VR. The range of this lens is very useful,
although it is very slow in focusing in
comparison to the f/2,8 lenses. It is a good lens for wildlife
photography in situations where there is not too
much movement involved. I would
not recommend this lens for action photography. It can be done, but
frustrations would be part of the experience.
- Canon 100-400 mm f/5.6. or Canon 400 mm f/5.6. I have no personal
experience with these lenses;
however, some professional wildlife photographers use them with excellent
As you can see, there are plenty of choices
and it all depends on your budget and the amount of load that you
wish to carry. The latest as of February 2008 is a 33-pound Sigma 200-500 mm, f/2.8. No
price announced for this lens yet.
moose have dropped their antlers, they become a good source of calcium for
rodents and other animals. If you happen to find any antlers in the woods, it
is advisable not to remove them. In fact, it is against the law to remove
antlers from any US National or State Park.