Encounter: Looking up the Moose’s nose

Someone once told not to look a gift horse in the mouth checked the dental signature of a Moose instead and discovered 12 molars, 12 premolars, 6 incisors and 2 canines. Oh dear, a moose is actually a deer, as Ogden Nash evidently knew!

Confronted by a mouse or moose,
You turn green, she turns chartroose.


My first encounter with the Moose (Alces alces) was in the Rockies in Colorado. It was mid-September and Fall was round the bend. We chanced upon a bull while driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park. As we clicked pictures it was joined by a cow.

Moose rubbing its antlers against the brush signifying the beginning of the breeding season
Four years later I encountered the moose again in and around Denali National Park, Alaska, around Labor Day. Fall arrives early in the northern reaches and the park officials warned that it was rutting season for the moose and any close encounters with a bull were fraught with risk as the beasts are most aggressive then. We saw a few moose from a distance (not including a skull at one of the interpretation centers).

Moose are the largest deer and often the personification of raw power. They are even considered dim-witted if I were to go by a character in a comic series I used to read two decades ago. They are widely distributed in the northern reaches of USA, Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. A race known as the Shiras Moose is found in the higher altitudes of America’s lower latitudes. Once the bull moose has mated it sheds its antlers to conserve energy for winter and regrows them next season. Cows do not sport antlers.

A bull moose
Someone once told not to look a gift horse in the mouth decided to check the dental signature of the moose instead and discovered 32 teeth – 12 molars, 12 premolars, six incisors and two canines. Add to that formidable palmate antlers and a thousand pounds in body weight, and we have a beast we do not want to mess with. The moose also has a pendulous appendage called the “bell” — a loose flap of dewlap-like skin that hangs below its throat. 

Moose are herbivores and their natural predators are bears and wolves. They have been hunted and humans have found use for everything from their meat to their scat — which, believe it or not, is often used in making jewelry.

Natural predation and game hunting has had little impact on moose population and this majestic beast continues to roam the northerly landscapes of the northern hemisphere.

And just by the way, Ogden Nash, who wrote those lines about the moose, also wrote this one about the elk, in which, of course, he also referred to the caribou — and the moose! 


Moose makes me think of caribou,
And caribou of moose,
With, even from their point of view,
Legitimate excuse.
Why then, when I behold an elk,
Can I but think of Lawrence Welk?

Text and lead photo: Anand Yegnaswami
Other photos: Wikimedia Commons


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