When anyone gives consideration to North America's largest wild creatures, it's only natural to ponder what ranks as the largest, right? And, for those of us who hunt, our minds wander straight to the deer family, as we daydream about the largest game animal that could one day hang from our walls. Well, if you didn't already know, moose are the clear-cut winner in terms of size, and a big bull is probably even bigger than you think it is, as it's completely normal to encounter one well over 1,000 pounds and over 7 feet tall at the shoulders. Add on the head and those massive antlers and you have yourself and absolute monster of an animal that truly demands respect.
However, as large as they seem in photos, and as large as they appear to anyone who gets the opportunity to lay eyes on one in person, their true scale might still be under-estimated. Today we're going to dive in and take a closer look at how big moose actually are, and what factors cause that size to vary.
It's hard to imagine an animal like this still exists in the the world. To me, moose seem almost like a relic from our past that would've been rubbing shoulders with a wooly mammoth and running from cavemen on the hunt. And, yet, they're still here in North America and parts of Europe and flourishing. According to the National Wildlife Federation, moose can be found from Maine to Washington across the northern regions of the United States, as well as throughout Canada and up into Alaska.
Populations are in decline in certain parts of the United States, however, as Minnesota and the Northeast have seen a rapid drop in numbers. While studies are still hoping to determine why, the most likely culprits include a loss of habitat, winter tick infestations, brain worms, bacterial infections, and liver flukes. Harsh winters from presumed climate change have also certainly contributed, but it's hard to know how much of a role each of these contributors is playing. However, when it comes to how big a full-grown moose really is, let's have some fun here. It's easy to say a poundage and a height, but there's more to it than that. If you're like me, you like to think in pictures, not in numbers. So, let's dig in.
As mentioned, moose can weigh over 1,000 pounds, but just to put that in perspective, that's roughly the same weight as a grand piano. Plenty of Alaskan moose get far bigger, but that's a fair comparison for an average moose. If you need a living comparison, think of a polar bear, which is a whole lot bigger than that black bear you spotted once out in the country. Moose are so large and striking, that despite being herbivores, they typically more than a big brown bear would want to square up with. In fact, there are few species on the planet that would tangle up with a moose, as they're wildly dangerous when in a survival situation.
An adult milk cow weighs about 1,500 pounds, a weight that isn't uncommon for a moose to reach. The largest moose ever weighed was 1,800 pounds, so when you consider the pairing of size and physical ability, you have an animal that has earned its place in the wilderness. Granted that was a full-grown bull from Yukon, but you could also imagine the appetite a moose would need to maintain that kind of weight.
An adult moose is about 7-8 feet tall at the shoulders, but that could easily turn into 10 feet when they decide to stand upright as their heads and horns are staggering in size. Additionally, their naturally long legs make them tower over fellow cervids around the globe, let alone in the United States. A male moose is typically considerably larger than a female, but both make other deer species look inferior. However, just to give you an idea of how big 7-8 feet tall is, just imagine squaring up with something as tall as Andre the Giant or Shaquille O'Neil. If you're looking at a moose with its head held high at around 10 feet, it's probably about the size of a basketball hoop, or two average refrigerators stacked on top of each other. Yeah, that's big.
As heavy and tall as moose are, they're just as impressive in length. The average adult moose boasts a total length from head to tail of 7-10 feet. So, in many cases, they're as tall as they are long. Perhaps that's what makes a moose seem so majestic is the fullness of their bodies that perfectly complements the silhouette, but regardless, that's one big box walking through the woods. Since we gave some relatable references for height and weight, just go ahead and consider how long a Volkswagen Beetle is.
So, if you're ever thinking of going moose hunting, you need to remember a couple things. First, don't make the mistake of feeling comfortable with an inferior rifle. Anything below that .30-caliber threshold is probably a no-go, and if you're smart, you'll pack as heavy of a punch as your shoulder can handle. Second, you should always maintain a respect for the size and ability of these animals. Under no circumstances should you feel safe sneaking up on one. And, finally, have a plan for packing that big boy out should the stars align for you. If they don't, at least you'll have enough stored knowledge to win a trivia contest should a moose anatomy question get asked.
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