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Moose: Gentle Giant or Forest Bully?

Is the moose developing a bad reputation?

I have said before in previous articles, “People frequently fear what they do not understand.”

With yet another “moose charges human” video in the news, I thought it might be a good time to present some moose facts and clear the air for those who cannot do so for themselves, namely the moose.

Is the moose really some crazed forest denizen that charges humans on sight? Should it be shot at the slightest provocation to protect life and limb?

Is the moose a big forest bully, or are humans to blame as they venture deeper into its home territory, coming in closer and more frequent contact? Is there a more gentle side to this awesome creature? We will present facts. You can decide for yourself.

Moose are the largest of the deer species (cervidae). The males are easily distinguished from the females by their enormous antlers, which can reach a span of six feet.

The ungainly and somewhat cartoonish appearance prompted 19th Century writer Henry David Thoreau to comment “Why stand so high at the shoulders? Why have so long a head?” Due to its appearance the moose is often mistakenly assumed as clumsy and dull-witted; we all know what happens when we assume

Unfortunately in this case as in others where humans interact with a potentially dangerous creature, somebody gets shot.

Standing up to seven feet tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 1,800 pounds, the moose can certainly be an intimidating animal. They can run up to 35 miles per hour over short distances and trot at 20 miles per hour for an extended period of time.

RELATED: Minnesota Moose Are Dying, Scientists Perplexed as to Why

The word moose is derived from the North American Algonquin Indian word meaning “twig eater.” An herbivore, moose feed exclusively on plants. Aquatic plants which have high sodium content are a favored food.

They will consume fifty to sixty pounds a day and have been observed diving to 18 feet to graze on plants at the bottom of northern forest ponds and lakes.

Moose are frequently seen with only their heads protruding from the water and can stay submerged for 30 seconds or more. Excellent swimmers, moose have been seen paddling for miles.

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The moose hoof is a wonder in of itself and averages between five to seven inches in length. Because of their size, the hooves aid the heavy animal in walking marshy ground and can act as a kind of “snowshoe” in heavy drifts.

They are used to forage in deep winter snow and can even be used to fend off an attack by an entire pack of wolves. A moose will defend itself by kicking with its front feet. A solid connection with a foe’s head or body could be fatal.

The eyes are located on the sides of the head and can detect movement almost directly behind the animal. Some researchers have suggested that because of the placement of the nostrils in the head, coupled with the almost 360-degree rotating ears and eyes located on the side of the head, that a moose may be able to locate objects in a three dimensional scale.

RELATED: Moose Trapped in Swing Set Gets Freed by Utah Sheriff’s Sergeant [VIDEO]

A moose is able to detect another calling up to two miles away. To hear a moose call, go here.

The female moose, called a “cow” (the males are called bulls and the young a calf), will give birth in spring. When the calf is about a year old and the cow is pregnant again, the calf is driven away to fend for itself.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but a female moose with a calf is fiercely protective of her young and should never be approached. A cow will attack wolves, bears, and even humans while defending their young.

This would only invite aggression and disaster. After all which one of us would not protect our children?

Bulls, like many other animals, can be more than a little testy during the rutting season. The seemingly big secret to getting along with such wildlife is giving the other party lots of respect and space. If not, mayhem can and often does ensue. Trust me on this one.

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Moose are attracted to roadside salt deposits put down during the winter, and are most frequently on or alongside the road after sundown. Their dark color makes them difficult to see in the gloom. Collision with vehicles has led to fatalities to both human and animal alike.

All being said and done, this forest giant has been observed playing in the ocean waves, attacking them in mock battle. It has been seen bathing peacefully in hot springs. There is a kind of tenderness between bull and cow during the rut and a cow’s loyalty to her calf is touching to say the least.

RELATED: Baby Moose Play in Sprinkler, Adorableness Ensues [VIDEO]

Dr. Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Calgary observes: “This strange animal with the ungainly face can be quick witted, affectionate, and loyal to a fault.”

Creatures of the forest, sea and sky deserve our respect. If you hunt them as I do, treat them with the dignity and reverence they deserve. Pulling a pistol on one like he is some street thug is both shameful and cowardly. Given the space and opportunity deserved the animal will most likely retreat.

Use your head for something other than a hat rack.

The true nature of this “twig eater,” dweller of deep shadows? Please…

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Moose: Gentle Giant or Forest Bully?