Life Cycles of the Moose
In the Spring, following an eight month gestation,
expectant cows give birth to one or two calves. Twin calves may occur more frequently in a healthy cows. As with
most wild animals, a calf's life is most at risk during the first months. Wolves and bears are natural predators of
calves, but seldom adults. So, "mom" must defend her offspring by kicking and trampling any troublemakers
looking for a meal. Calves, having a lighter color than adults, also enjoy the protection from a natural camoflauge in
brush and tall grass.
The Summer finds moose spending more time in the water browsing on plants,
attempting to stay cool, and avoiding swarming flies that constantly pester them. Fortunately, fly bites are more a nuisance
than a serious threat to a moose's health. However, the brain worm is not so innocuous. It kills!
Autumn brings on the moose's mating period, called the "rut." Bull moose thrash shrubs
and trees, shed the velvet from their antlers, and challenge each other for mating rights. ( Boy! This pretty much
described my frat house, too! ) Often, territorial challenges are through visual intimidation, not physical contact.
Luckily, when bulls do duel, they rarely are seriously injured. ( I love ya honey, but your not worth dying over. ) Dominant
bulls mate early in the season; the vanquished bulls may not mate until later.
The mating season is usually the only time when moose may be seen together
as a "family"... you know... bulls, cows and calves. In reality, this is not a family unit at all. In fact, the calves may
well be offspring from a different bull. The bull's only intention during this time is mating with one or more cows... Ah,
Following the rut, and commencing with colder weather, males shed their antlers and both
genders instinctively intensify eating in preparation for winter.
Winter can be the most difficult season for moose due to a decrease in available
browse, especially if there is early winter deep, accumulating snow. This condition can significantly increase moose
Spring brings renewal... and a new life cycle once again begins.
For yearling calves, it's also a time for a rude ending... weaning! Following
a year of mothers' nurturing, guidance, and protection, cows now aggressively discourage their yearlings'
presence. This rejection instinct benefits the cow's survival as nursing two generations could threaten her
health. Now, "orphaned" calves must fend for themselves. Fortunately, having lived through their most threatening year, yearlings
have a higher probability of developing into healthy adults.
And so, this cycle has been repeated for eons.