Exploring Baby Moose Habits, Socialization and Development
Baby moose are one of the most distinctive species of deer out there. They have an unmistakable shape, and they dwarf every other species of deer. To see a baby moose you might think that it’s size, appearance and speed might set it up well for a good start in life, but they don’t often have it so easy.
They do have some pretty remarkable features however, that set them apart from every other species of deer. Here are some awesome baby moose facts you might not know, as well as answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Baby Moose Facts
A Baby Moose Is Called A Calf
Moose, are one of the largest species of deer and while many baby deer are called ‘fawn‘, a baby moose is called a ‘calf‘. It’s not the only type of deer to have their young named calves – Elk, and Reindeer do too. When they grow, male moose are known as ‘bulls‘ and females are ‘cows‘. The plural of calf is ‘calves‘, but the plural of moose is ‘moose‘.
The collective noun for a group of moose is ‘herd‘, regardless of the age. There is no specific collective noun for a group of young moose. Moose that are over a year old but not yet adults, are sometimes called ‘younglings‘.
A Baby Moose Is The Largest Of All Deer Species
Moose are the tallest of all the species of deer, and baby moose can be as much as two feet tall! Of the 8 recognised subspecies of moose, the Alaskan-Yukon (Alces alces gigas) is the biggest. New born calves generally weigh between 13-16 kg (28-35 lbs) on average, though the Alaskan calves can be bigger. Moose born as twins are usually smaller, sometimes half as small. In the first five months, a baby moose calf will gain up to 10 times its birth weight!
A baby moose can grow between 1 to 1.5 kg every single day, for the first few months after birth. In comparison, a baby deer fawn weighs between 1.8-3.6 kg (4-8 lbs) generally, but some breeds can be up to 5.5 kg (12 lbs) if it is a single birth.
Baby Moose Are Born Around 8 Months After Conception
Mating season for moose tends to start earlier than for other species of deer. Moose mate around September and October in the early fall, and the gestation period is around 220 days – around 8 months with the first births in May to June in the late Spring. In comparison, roe deer and red deer for example, mate in late fall and early winter (November/December) and give birth around the same time in May/June – 6 months later.
Mothers will defend their calves very aggressively and while they will nurse their young for around 5 months, calves will start on some solid food after their first few days.
There Are Often More Than One Moose In A Litter
Young mothers will usually only give birth to a single calf. But as moose get older, they are more likely to have multiple calves in a litter. Twins and triplets are more common in breeding with older female does and some subspecies have more multiple births than others. According to the Alaska Department Of Fish And Game, depending on the moose cow, births of twins can occur between 10-70% of the time.
Baby Moose Have Poor Sight But Great Smell
Baby moose develop pretty quickly, and are able to walk within hours of being born. By five days of age, they can outrun the average human!
Baby moose are also born with an incredible sense of smell and hearing. They are however, born with incredibly poor eyesight. For the first few days after birth, the mother cow will keep her calves hidden, allowing them time to gather some strength and awareness of their environment and senses.
As their sight doesn’t improve much as the grow up, they rely heavily on their other well developed senses, their size and their speed to get around and survive in the world.
Baby Moose Are Very Fast
From about 5 days old, a baby moose can run as fast as 30 mph! They could easily outrun a human at this speed. Even the fastest human alive Usain Bolt only briefly managed a maximum of 27.77 mph during one section of a race, but no human could ever maintain that speed unaided for very long.
As well as being very fast runners, baby moose calves can also jump very high, between 8 to 10 feet!
Baby Moose Cry For Their Mother
At first, baby moose calves don’t have many vocalizations. They can make a grunting noise and they use this often to get their mothers attention. After a few weeks though, they develop the ability to make a distinctive crying noise.
They will cry when in distress, when they are hungry or scared. They have been known to cry when they are upset too, or lose sight of their mother. There are accounts of baby moose standing over their deceased mothers crying their eyes out, or searching for their mothers.
Most Moose Babies Don’t Survive Passed Their First Winter.
Baby moose generally spend their first winter with their mother for protection. Although it can be a good four years until they are fully grown adults, they usually become independent and solitary animals before their second year. That is if they are lucky enough to make it through their first winter. Most of them don’t.
In one study carried out between 2017 and 2019, only 49% of moose calves made it through their first winter, and only 66% made it passed their first three months. Not only do they have to contend with a lower birth date, hunting and habitat degradation, but one nasty little side effect of climate change is the massive increase of winter tick parasites.
These parasites are thriving in some areas and baby moose calves are an easy target. The little parasites will hijack a host animal in groups sometimes into the thousands.
They don’t spread disease like other types of tick, rather the winter tick will attach to a host for months and by the time winter comes round baby calves and mother cows don’t have enough blood to replenish their systems. This causes them to become malnourished and too weak to survive.
Baby Moose FAQs
Baby Moose Lifecycle
Moose calves are born after around 8 months from conception. They can walk after a few hours and by 5 months they are completely weaned. They will live with their mothers for their first year at least, but usually leave the family group by the time they are 18 months old.
They reach sexual maturity by around 24 months, some as early as 18 months, but it may around 4 years of age that they are fully grown adults. If they are lucky enough to make it past their first year, the average life expectancy of a moose is between 15-25 years in the wild.
How Many Moose Are Born In A Litter?
Typically one or two moose are born into a litter, but three is not uncommon. Any more than three is quite rare.
What Do Baby Moose Eat?
For the first few days, a baby moose calf relies fully on their mothers milk. After the first two weeks they start to introduce solid food, but are not fully weaned from mothers milk for around 5 months. They are herbivorous in nature, and their diet changes seasonally depending on availability.
Through fall and winter for example they will eat more willow, birch, and aspen twigs. But in spring and summer they graze more on sedges, pond weeds, and grasses as well as the leaves of birch, willow, and aspen trees.
Are Baby Moose Born With Antlers?
No, baby moose are not born with their antlers, these grow later. Deer species in general are not born with antlers. Red deer stag start to grow their antlers from about 10 months old. Roe deer start sooner but have much shorter antlers. Male moose will grow their antlers after their first year.
Where Do Baby Moose Live?
Baby moose live with their mothers for the first 18-24 months of their life. They are found widely in colder environments in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly through northern Europe, Canada and the USA. In Europe they are called Elk, but in the USA, Elk is used to refer to a different species.
Natural Predators Of Baby Moose
Wolves, black bears and grizzly bears are the most prominent hunters of moose, but they are also hunted widely by humans for food and sport. They are fast runners, but bears are too and wolves have the advantage of a pack.