Thursday, July 22, 2010
Five Things I Did Not Know About Moose
You know you're in Maine when you see the first of these signs along I-95. After five years here, I'm skeptical; I have yet to see a live moose, though I have seen dead ones, and I have heard plenty of stories about friends' encounters with them. Sometime next month I might venture north on a quest. In the meantime, I've been looking stuff up.
1. Moose (Alces alces) are large deer. The largest deer, in fact, standing six feet tall at the shoulder and weighing as much as 1,800 pounds. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that moose were a species of deer; I always thought of them being more like cows.
2. Moose are good swimmers. They'll even go underwater for up to 30 seconds at a time. They like to eat aquatic plants, and can swim for miles.
3. Moose can run really fast. I think of moose as being kind of slow and ponderous, but they can hit speeds of 35 miles an hour, and 20 miles an hour is no big deal for them.
4. Moose will use their hooves to defend themselves before they use their antlers. Only the males have antlers, so don't think you're any safer from the females.
5. A castrated male moose stops growing new antlers. If a male moose is castrated, he sheds his antlers immediately and grows a new, misshapen set ("devil's antlers") that he never sheds again. Skeptics of natural selection, take note: moose antlers are mainly for display, to attract females. A castrated moose's deformed antlers tell females he's no good for them. Female moose are probably smarter about this than female human beings.