Moose ( Alces alces )
|Scientific name of the tribe
|Brookes , 1828
|Scientific name of the genus
|JE Gray , 1821
|Scientific name of the species
|( Linnaeus , 1758)
The elk ( Alces alces ) is the largest species of deer found today . Its habitat extends across northern Europe , northern Asia and North America . The moose is classified as "not endangered" by the IUCN .
The elk has a head-torso length of up to 3 meters, a maximum shoulder height of 2.3 meters; he weighs up to 800 kilograms. The body size and weight are different depending on the subspecies, habitat and living conditions. Male moose that were shot on the upper reaches of the Pechora in the northern European part of Russia in the 1950s only weighed 518 kilograms. Cows elk weighed a maximum of 423 kilograms. Elk deer are on average heavier than females from the age of three. The height at the withers of the elk from the Pechora taiga was a maximum of 190 centimeters.
The short, massive trunk with its relatively long limbs is characteristic of the elk's physique . The chest is well developed in adult animals and the shoulder area is muscular. The vertebrae of the thoracic spine have elongated spinous processes . This is where the muscles and ligaments that support the weight of the antlers attach. This creates a raised withers , the typical elk hump, which is covered with long, protruding hair. The less developed rear part of the trunk falls backwards. The tail, covered with hair, is rather short with eight to ten centimeters and only reaches a third of the length of the ears; it lies close to the body and hardly emerges from the fur. A noticeable gender dimorphism does not exist in relation to the physique. Moose cows are just a little lighter, the withers are not as pronounced and the shoulder area is slightly less muscled.
The ears are wide, oblong and oval and taper slightly at the ends. The eyes are very small in relation to the head. The eye color is dark. The pre-eye gland found in most deer is relatively small or absent in the elk. The broad and overhanging upper lip is characteristic of the elk. It gives the facial profile a curved line. Both sexes have a goatee, which is greatest in elks between the ages of 3 and 5. It is then on average 20 to 25 centimeters long. However, some individuals also have a significantly longer goatee. In older moose, this goatee can almost be gone.
Depending on age and gender, the leg length of European elk is 90 to 110 centimeters, and of Alaskan elk the legs are about ten centimeters longer. The fore and hindquarters are very flexible, which allows the elks to move very quickly on uneven terrain; the long legs make them particularly suitable for staying in swamps and moors. Elche have front and rear legs interdigital glands with which they lay scent trails.
Moose are articulated ungulates and have split hooves. A hoof each consist of the two main claw or shells and a dew claw. The main claws are up to 18 centimeters long, taper to a point and are hard and sharp-edged, especially on the front. The front hooves are slightly larger and wider than the rear ones. A special feature is the webbing , a connecting skin between the large shells, which is only found in the elk, no other species of deer has this characteristic. The hooves are always a little spread apart, on soft ground they go particularly far apart, the webbing is taut and reduces sinking into the snow or muddy ground. If the hooves are widely spread, the dorsal claws also take on a support function.
Coat and coat color
The hair is coarse and hard. The longest hair is found on the withers. The average length of the hair at this point is 16 to 18 centimeters, but in individual individuals it can also reach a length of 24 to 25 centimeters. They stand very close together, point a little backwards and underline the humpback shape characteristic of elks. The hair on the back of the neck is slightly shorter than the hair on the withers and forms a short mane. The hair on the head and legs is very short.
The coat color of the trunk, the upper parts of the legs, the neck and the head varies individually between red-brown and black-brown. It is darkest in summer, when moose have lost the last of their winter hair, and lightest at the end of winter, when the dark ends of winter hair have worn off and the light basal sections of winter hair shine through. The beginning of the hair change from winter to summer coat depends on the respective distribution area. In Central Russia it begins in April and lasts until July.
Unlike many other deer, the moose has no mirror at the end of its trunk. The mirror has a social function in many deer species and, for example, helps the calf to follow its mother. In the case of the moose, the gray-white runs take on this signaling function. From around the middle of the lower leg or forearm, the legs are gray-white to almost pure white with a silvery sheen and contrast strongly with the dark trunk. They are clearly visible when moose move in the semi-darkness of the forest, where the dark trunk stands out only slightly from the background.
Newly born elk calves do not show any spots, as is characteristic of the young animals of many deer species. They are dark brown to reddish brown including the legs. Individual individuals occasionally have an eel line on the rear neck and back .
The males are characterized by antlers with a maximum span of more than two meters. The Alaskan elk have particularly large shovel antlers. Shovel antlers of the European subspecies remain somewhat smaller and have a wingspan of up to 1.35 meters and weigh up to 20 kilograms. The antlers are shed from January to February each year. It is very variable in size and shape and can consist of branched rods or broad, flat blades and a mixture of these two types. As a rule, it has a rod that is horizontal to the skull and a wide, flattened shovel, the surface of which is directed sideways and slightly backwards. On the shovel there are appendages that are directed outwards forwards and backwards.
Young elk deer develop a short, forked spear for the first time in their second year of life. In the following year they have a fork with two ends, which is usually followed by a small antler with three ends on each antler side. The further development is not subject to any regularity, so that it is not possible to determine the age of the elk based on the number of consecrated animals. Usually, however, increasingly larger blades are formed in the following years. Males between the ages of five and ten, the period when they are physically fully developed, usually have the largest antlers; in older moose the antlers develop back again.
As a resident of the northern boreal forest and taiga areas, the elk is found in Europe , Asia and North America . In Asia, Mongolia and Manchuria, among others, are settled . It is absent on Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands , otherwise the Pacific represents the eastern border of the Asian distribution area.
In North America , the moose is found primarily in Canada , in central and western Alaska , in large parts of New England and New York , in the Upper Rocky Mountains , northeast Minnesota , Michigan on the Upper Peninsula and the Isle Royale in Lake Superior . Isolated elk populations have also been spotted further south, in the mountains of Utah and Colorado .
Larger European elk populations can be found in Norway , Sweden , Finland and the Baltic states ; They are also widespread in Russia , with small settlements in Poland , Belarus and the Czech Republic . In Sweden, for example, around 80,000 moose are shot every year, but this does not endanger the local population. In historical times, the elk also occurred in Western Europe with the exception of the South, Southeast and West. At the turn of the ages , the elk was widespread in all of Germania , which at that time was a very sparsely populated woodland. Remains of the oldest hunting traps for moose have been dated to 3,700 BC in Northern Europe. With the disappearance of the forests and the expansion of the cultural area, the elk population declined. Until the Second World War , the elk was found in Germany in Mecklenburg, parts of East Brandenburg and Silesia and especially in East Prussia on the Curonian Spit and in the lowlands on the east bank of the Curonian Lagoon . The small population in Mecklenburg and New Western Pomerania disappeared with the chaos of war. The stock in the former East Prussia was able to hold up to this day. In addition to the wolf , the elk has recently returned and is spreading in Germany, including Brandenburg.
The range of the moose is very dynamic. In European Russia , for example, there was a drastic reduction in area in the first half of the 19th century, with the southern limit of distribution shifting to the north by almost 1000 kilometers. The reasons for this are unclear, as there was no sharp decline in the forest zone during this period. Heavy hunting may be one of the influencing factors, as from the beginning of the 18th century parts of the Russian army were equipped with uniforms made of elk leather. In the second half of the 19th century, when the use of elk leather for Russian uniform tailoring was almost completely stopped, the lost area was largely repopulated. The southern limit of distribution shifted again in a few decades by 500 to 600 kilometers to the south. In the course of the 20th century, the elk also repopulated the Caucasus , where it had been extinct since the beginning of the 19th century. This is interesting from a zoogeographical point of view because moose crossed the steppes of the Caucasus foothills, which are fully cultivated and densely populated. Apparently, moose are able to quickly traverse areas unsuitable for their habitat requirements in order to reach suitable habitats.
The expansion dynamics of the elk can also be seen in Central Europe. In recent years, individual animals have been sighted over long periods of time in Saxony-Anhalt , Brandenburg , Hesse and Thuringia , occasionally (most recently in August 2014 in the urban area of Dresden ) also in Saxony . In Bavaria , because of the increasing immigration of animals from the Czech Republic , an " elk plan " was even developed. Moose, like wolf , are thus referred to as wild animals that have returned to Germany. Moose migrating from the Czech Republic have also been observed in the Austrian Thayatal , Bohemian Forest and as far as the southern Waldviertel as well as in the Mühlviertel .
In 1904, moose were successfully introduced into Newfoundland ; they are now the dominant ungulates there. Ten moose were released in Fiordland , New Zealand in 1910 , but they became extinct again. A reintroduction project has also been taking place in Denmark since 2015 ( Lille Vildmose ).
The elk is adaptable in its habitat requirements, but prefers uneven, difficult terrain. Flat and unobstructed steppe , tundra or prairie is rarely used by him. He is relatively local and usually stays in an area that is familiar to him. Both can be traced back to the escape behavior of the moose. Moose flee from their predators such as wolves or bears , as their long legs allow them to overcome obstacles that their pursuers have to jump over with greater physical effort. However, this behavior also assumes that the elk is in an area that is familiar to them. Moose use a territory of up to 1500 hectares all year round . Seasonally, however, they stay in a much smaller area. According to North American studies, these seasonal territories are between 200 and 400 hectares.
Moose can be found in the treeless arctic , alpine meadows, prairies and swamp forests. They avoid regions with high levels of snow. In regions where a lot of snow falls, they usually stay in places with a population of conifers and evergreen shrubs, which prevent high snow from forming on the ground. In Sweden , moose leave their summer territories and seek lower altitudes as soon as the snow depth is more than 42 centimeters.
Food and subsistence
Moose are selectors and mostly eat very energy-rich food, such as young tree shoots and aquatic plants, as fresh leaves are much richer in protein and minerals than grass. They prefer poplar, birch and willow trees. Moose may also like to eat aquatic plants because of their high sodium content . Moose are the only deer that can graze underwater. In autumn and winter they also eat blueberry twigs , common heather and young pine shoots . Similar to other selectors , the rumen is relatively small because the energy-rich food is digested quickly.
Moose usually stay in places where there is plenty of food. They only move on when this food supply is exhausted. Unlike reindeer , they are solitary while foraging and roam a much smaller area. The amount of food consumed varies with the season. In summer and autumn they eat up a reserve of fat with which they compensate for the lower food intake during winter. In the winter months they lose around 12 to 20 percent of their autumn weight. Bulls, which also lose significant weight during the rut, are at a greater risk than elk cows of starvation in the winter months.
Way of life
Moose are diurnal solitary animals. In winter they sometimes come together to form loose communities. Temperatures of minus 50 ° C are no problem for them. They feel most comfortable at temperatures of plus 10 ° C to minus 20 ° C; if it gets too warm, they suffer from heat stress . Because of their size, the bulls are more susceptible than the cows and calves. If the animals get too warm, they move to the cooler mountains, they try to avoid steep terrain.
The elk antlers are fully grown in autumn, at the beginning of the rut . Then the bulls strip the bast skin off the antlers on trees and bushes. With their antlers swept , the bulls establish a ranking in practice fights. These battles are not yet being fought with all vigor. When the placeholder defends the cows against his rivals in mid-September, threatening gestures and light pushing and pushing turn into furious duels. But even in this phase the bulls try to save strength and intimidate their opponents by working on shrubs and bushes with their antlers. During the rut, the bulls hardly eat and lose weight.
Female packs of up to 15 animals can often be found at the rutting places. Cow elk are ready to conceive for just 30 hours every 28 days during the mating season. At first, the cow appears disinterested or even disapproving of the bull. However, the closer she is to conception, the sooner she will react to his advances. The pairing only takes two to three seconds. It takes place several times a day, mostly in the early morning hours or late in the evening. Since moose mostly live solitary , the females leave the bulls again after mating. When all females are mated, the bulls also leave the rutting site.
Many moose calves die from an infection with one occurring in cattle Beta coronavirus . The disease is fatal for them. Treatment of the disease is not possible. The only help promises to be vaccinated in the last third of pregnancy.
The gestation period lasts 226 to 264 days (about eight months). Most of the time a single animal is born, but twins are also not uncommon. A few days before the birth, the cow elk drives away last year's calf. The cow moose looks for a secluded, protected spot in the forest to give birth. After birth, cows elk are considered very dangerous. People who come too close will attack them with their hooves. Fatal accidents have already occurred. The calf tries to get up just a few minutes after birth; after about 20 minutes it follows the mother. Shortly after birth, the calf is around 80 centimeters tall and weighs 10 to 15 kilograms. Twins are usually a bit smaller and lighter. The mother suckles the calf on her four teats up to eight times a day. The young animal drinks up to 1.5 liters of milk a day in the first few days, and up to 3 liters with increasing size.
The fur of the young is very soft, dense and usually of a uniform reddish to brown color. The first coat change takes place after three months. The calf stays with its mother for at least a year and is evicted as soon as a new birth is due. Young moose become sexually mature after 16 to 17 months , but at this age they cannot assert themselves against the old bulls. Cows elk are most fertile between the ages of six and eleven . The maximum service life is 27 years, but in freedom it should rarely exceed 15 years.
Moose calves are too small in their first few months to follow their mothers over obstacles at their speed. The close bond between calf and mother means that cows defend them very decisively. Before their first winter, calves usually reach a height that enables them to follow their mothers. However, they are still too weak to defend themselves successfully. They can defend themselves at sixteen to eighteen months, when Alaskan elks weigh around 280 kilograms.
Natural enemies of the moose are brown bears and wolves (in Europe, Asia and North America) and black bears and pumas (only in North America). But lynx and wolverines can also kill very young calves. Due to their size, adult and healthy moose hardly have to fear any other animal species. Your routine is also very fast. A speed of 60 kilometers per hour has already been measured in moose in Sweden.
The predators primarily include brown bears and black bears. While black bears tend to hunt smaller moose, the larger brown bears, like the grizzly bear , stick to the large moose. They can even overwhelm adult bull elk. The bears grab their victims by the throat with their fangs and blow them away.
In East Asia, the elk is one of the prey of the Siberian tiger . Siberian tigers are the largest of their kind; even adult bulls are no problem for these predators. Unlike bears, tigers kill their prey with a neck bite and break its neck with their strong jaws.
Wolves often kill elk calves and yearlings. Adult moose will only attack them when they are old, sick or injured. However, even adult, healthy bulls are overwhelmed by very large packs of wolves. Especially in deep snow or on thin ice, wolves are clearly superior to elk.
Within the even-toed ungulate, the elk belongs to the deer family , which is particularly rich in species in the New World . Within this family, the elk is one of the so-called deer deer . This subfamily is characterized, among other things, by the fact that on the front legs of the greatly reduced middle bones of the 2nd and 5th fingers, only the distal sections have been preserved as thin, rod-shaped bones. The elk, like the reindeer, is one of the deer species found in both the New and Old World.
The first deer appeared in Europe 25 to 30 million years ago. However, these original species did not yet have antlers. Only from the Young Tertiary there are deer finds with antlers, but still with canine teeth. The canine teeth receded in the course of evolution , while the antlers developed more and more. Moose of the genus Alces have been known since the Pleistocene . The extinct North American genus Cervalces and the extinct broad- fronted elk ( Alces latifrons ) of the Pleistocene with antlers over two meters wide are considered to be close relatives.
Today's elk is a relatively young species , probably not more than 60,000 years old, as Central Asia is believed to be its origin . The ancestors of the American moose moved to Alaska over the Bering Bridge, which lay dry in the last Ice Age , at the end of the Pleistocene . This was possible when the boreal forests , the habitats of the elk at the end of the Pleistocene around 12,000 years ago, pushed north and displaced the mammoth steppes . As long as the Bering Bridge was dry, the elk could cross this land bridge to North America, where the similar genus Cervalces was widespread until its arrival . This soon disappeared. When it got warmer and the sea level rose again, the connection to Eurasia was cut and the American elk population isolated from the Eurasian.
The following subspecies are distinguished:
- European elk ( Alces alces alces ), Scandinavia, Poland, Baltic States, Northern Russia west of the Urals
- Yakut moose ( Alces alces pfizenmayeri ), western Siberia
- Kamchatka elk ( Alces alces buturlini ), Eastern Siberia
- Amur elk ( Alces alces cameloides ), Amur region, Mongolia , Manchuria
- Yellowstone Moose ( Alces alces shirasi ), northwestern United States , southern Alberta
- Eastern Canadian elk ( Alces alces americanus ), Eastern Canada and Maine
- Western Canadian elk ( Alces alces andersoni ), western Canada, and Minnesota
- Alaska moose ( Alces alces gigas ), Alaska , Yukon
Another subspecies, the Caucasian elk ( Alces alces caucasicus ), was eradicated in the early 19th century.
As with most animal species, there is no consensus among zoologists about the exact number of subspecies. For example, there are views that all North American moose should in reality be grouped into a single subspecies.
Some classifications only divide the elk into two species, the Eurasian elk ( Alces alces ) and the American elk ( Alces americanus ).
People and moose
Description by the Romans
The fact that moose have been hunted by humans since the Stone Age can be concluded from corresponding representations in cave drawings . The earliest depiction of a moose can be found in the about 14,000 year old amber elk by Weitsche , the earliest description in the sixth book of Caesar's De bello Gallico in an excursus on the Herkynian forest in Germania. Caesar bases his statements on representations by Greek ethnographers such as Eratosthenes, which have now been lost . There he describes the elk as animals without knee joints that would usually lean against trees to sleep. The Teutons would use this weakness to hunt elk by sawing trees so that they fall over as soon as an elk leans on them. The moose would also fall over and then, in the absence of a knee joint, would not be able to get up again.
Also Pliny the Elder described in his Naturalis historia the moose in the same way and enriched the representations to other false claims: Because of his great upper lip is to read with him, the elk could graze just going backwards.
Representations of moose, elk heads or elk shovels were and have long been considered popular symbols for East Prussia , mostly in the Prussian colors black and white. The black elk shovel in the white field has been a registered trademark of the East Prussian Association of Expellees since 1957 . The trademark of the East Prussian Stud Trakehnen shows two elk shovels.
Reintroduction attempts from the end of the 20th century
The elk , which was still widespread in Germany in the Middle Ages, was completely exterminated through hunting . Only occasionally do moose migrate to Germany from Poland . They were almost extinct there, too, only surviving in the Białowieża National Park . The nationwide population in Poland now comprises 4,000 animals again. A controlled reintroduction in Germany is not planned due to expected conflicts with forestry and agriculture. A reintroduction project in the Upper Lusatian Heath and Pond Landscape Biosphere Reserve is examining the effects and requirements; the moose should help to keep the heather from overgrowning. However, this should not be a permanent resettlement. In 2007, nine moose, including two cows, were observed in the wild in southern Brandenburg.
The Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry has issued on 10 October 2007 in cooperation with the Supreme Council hunting a 14-page information for dealing with elk. The Bavarian State Parliament gave the order for this . The reason was the increasing immigration of elks from the Czech Republic to Bavaria. In Austria it is only likely to be migrating game, a real reintroduction is assessed as unlikely due to the limited habitat, even the two neighboring South Bohemian elk populations are to be regarded as "not secured".
With their dark fur, moose are very well camouflaged in the long, dark northern winter. This is the undoing of motorists and moose today - in Alaska around 500 to 1,000 moose die on the roads every year, in Finland around 3,500 and in Sweden 4,000 to 5,000 animals. Most accidents happen in the spring, when the inexperienced yearling calves leave their mothers; Even during the rutting season, many bulls are hit by cars. In Sweden, attempts are being made to reduce the risk of accidents with wild fences and road underpasses.
Occasionally there are accidents with wild elk in Germany. The number of cases has increased since Poland banned elk hunting in 2001. The population doubled within ten years and the animals conquered the western part of Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic . They are increasingly crossing the borders with Germany. In the German federal states, road traffic in Brandenburg , Saxony and Bavaria is hardest hit. The species uses existing green bridges , but is also known for not avoiding cars when it comes to an encounter.
The hunt for the elk has a long tradition in many regions. Hunting was by no means safe before the use of rifles. Wladimir Heptner and Andrej Nasimowitsch report in their monograph on moose that in some Siberian regions before the introduction of firearms, the hunt for the moose was considered more dangerous than the bear hunt . They attribute this to the fact that the traditional hunting season fell during the rutting season, during which the excited elk attacked humans more than usual. While a hunter can defend himself against a bear attack with a dagger in an emergency, this weapon is ineffective against a moose that attacks with hoofbeats. Several deaths are known because the hoofbeats are executed with great speed and force and the hooves have very sharp leading edges.
According to census by the Department of Hunting and Agriculture, Alaska currently has about 160,000 moose. Around 8,000 to 11,000 elk are shot annually. In Europe, moose are hunted in the Baltic states, in the European part of Russia, in Poland and especially in Scandinavia. Since the moose in Sweden largely lack natural predators such as wolf and bear, the 300,000 animals cause severe damage in the forest. That is why up to 90,000 animals are shot every year in Sweden alone.
In Austria, the moose can be hunted in principle, but is spared all year round.
The elk is not one of those species that have been domesticated by humans. Hand-raised moose become very tame. The zoologist Valerius Geist compares the behavior of such moose with dogs rather than with other deer species. However, moose have very specific dietary requirements and are prey to various wildlife diseases. For this reason, domestication has (largely) been omitted.
Moose and white-tailed deer
White-tailed deer ( Odocoileus virginianus ) transmit a parasite through their droppings , which is fatal to moose. The white-tailed deer themselves are only noticeably affected by the parasite when they are old, sick or otherwise weakened. This is harmless for the elk as long as its habitat does not or only slightly overlaps that of many white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer mostly live south of the elk's range and prefer young forests with lots of undergrowth as nutrient-rich food. Especially in the cold winter, the deer need many high-energy young plants to cover their calorie requirements. Moose are better adapted to the cold and the utilization of low-energy food and live further north in older forests with little undergrowth.
Due to the extensive deforestation in Ontario in the 1930s and 1940s and the subsequent afforestation in the post-war period, the forest there was greatly rejuvenated. Together with many mild winters up to the 1960s, this led to a sharp increase in the number of white-tailed deer. As a result of the above-mentioned parasite transmission, a great number of moose fell ill and died and became rare in these areas. No more wood was felled in the protected areas, and the forest was growing older again. Coupled with the colder weather over the past 30 years, this has severely decimated the deer population; the population of moose increased sharply over the same period.
Historically, the names Elend , Elentier , Elenhirsch , Elen and Elk were used. In folk medicine, misery claws were used against epilepsy , gout or headache , for example . The elk's hoof was worn to ward off the evil eye .
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