Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
October 21, 2000 - Issue 21

How the People Hunted the Moose

One night, a family of moose was sitting in their lodge. As they sat around the fire, a very strange thing happened. A pipe came floating through their door! Sweet-smelling smoke came from the long pipe and it made a circle around their lodge, passing close to the Moose People.

The old bull moose saw the pipe, but said nothing, so it passed by him. The cow moose said nothing, so the pipe passed by her, too. The pipe passed each of the Moose People until it reached the youngest bull moose who was near the door, of the lodge.\

"You've come to me," he said to the pipe. Then, he reached out, took the pipe, and started to smoke it.

"Oh, my son," said the old bull moose, "now you have killed us! This is a pipe from the Human People. They're smoking this pipe now and asking for success in tomorrow's hunt. They will find us now. Because you smoked their pipe, they will find us."

"I'm not afraid," said the young bull moose. "I can run faster than any of those Human People. They can't catch me."

The old bull moose said nothing else.

When it was morning, the Moose People left their lodge. They went across the land looking for food. But, as soon as they got to the edge of the forest, they smelled the hunters. It was the time of year when there is a thin crust on the snow, and it made it hard for the Moose People to move quickly.

"These Human People will catch us!" said the cow moose. Their feet have feathers, like the grouse. They can walk on top of the snow."

Then, the Moose People started to run as the Human People followed them. The young bull moose who had smoked from the pipe ran away from the others. He was still sure that he could outrun the hunters. But, the hunters had on snowshoes, and the young moose's feet sank into the snow. The Human People followed him until he was tired, and then they shot and killed him.

After they killed him, they thanked him for smoking their pipe and for giving himself to them so that they could survive. They treated his body with care, and they soothed his spirit.

That night, the young bull moose woke up in his lodge surrounded by his Moose People. Next to his bed was a present that the Human People had given to him. He showed it to the others.

"See," he said. "It wasn't such a bad thing for me to accept the long pipe that the Human People sent us. Those hunters treated me respectfully. So, it is right for us to let the Human People catch us."

And, so it is to this day. Hunters who show respect to the moose, and other animals, are always the ones who have successful hunt.

Have you ever heard a moose? Click below and you will :)

Print and color your own moose picture:
Moose Coloring Picture

Moose Facts

The origin of the word MOOSE is thought to be from "mus" or "moos" of the Algonquian (North American Indian) family of languages.

Moose are found on the rocky, wooded hillsides of the western mountain ranges; along the margins of half a million lakes, muskegs, and streams of the great boreal forest; and even on the northern tundra and in the aspen parkland of the Prairie Provinces.

The moose as a big­game animal is prized by recreational hunters. However, it is much more than that to people who live in the North, there, the moose is an important source of food. It is also an important link in the food chain supporting predators like bears and wolves and scavengers like ravens.

The moose is the largest member of the deer family -- whose North American members also include elk (wapiti), white­tailed deer, mule deer, and caribou. Moose are not unique to North America but are also common in northern Europe and Asia.

General appearance
A bull moose in full spread of antlers is the most imposing beast in North America. It stands taller at the shoulder than the largest saddle horse. Big bulls weigh as much as a horse.

Moose have long, slim legs that end in cloven hooves often more than 18 cm long. The body is deep at the shoulders, where massive muscles are attached, giving the animal a humped appearance. It is slab­sided and low­rumped, with rather slim hindquarters and a short, well­haired stubby tail. The head is heavy and compact, and the nose extends in a long, mournful­looking arch terminating in a long, flexible upper lip. The ears are similar to those of a mule, although not quite as long. From the throat of most moose hangs a pendant of fur­covered skin, perhaps 30 cm long, called a bell.

In colour the moose varies from dark brown, almost black, to reddish or greyish brown, with grey or white leg "stockings."

In late summer and autumn, a mature bull carries a great sometimes almost white rack of antlers which may extend 180 cm or more between the widest tips, but which are more often 120­150 cm in span. The heavy main beams broaden into large palms which are fringed with a series of spikes usually less than 30 cm long.

Life history
At birth a calf moose is a tiny, ungainly copy of its mother. If it is one of twins it may weigh 6 kg; if born singly, between 11 and 16 kg.

Calves are helpless at birth. The mother keeps them in seclusion for a couple of days, hidden from their many enemies in a thicket or on an island. The voice of a newborn calf is a low grunt, but after a few days it develops a strident wail that is almost human. At the age of only a few days it can outrun a human, and swim readily.

Of all North American big­game animals, the moose calf gains weight fastest. During the first month after birth it may gain over half a kilogram per day, and later in the summer may begin to put on over 2 kg per day for a time.

Calves stay with the cow until she calves again the following spring. At that time she drive off her yearling calves -- no doubt a difficult experience for the "teenage" moose.

A bull calf may develop button antlers during its first year. New antlers are grown each summer and shed each autumn. Mature animals usually shed their antlers in November, but some younger bulls may carry theirs through the winter until April. Yearling bulls usually have spike antlers, and the antlers of two­year­olds are larger, usually flat at the ends.

The antlers begin growing in midsummer and during the period of growth are soft and spongy, with blood vessels running through them. They are covered with a velvety skin. By late August or early September the antlers are fully developed and are hard and bony. The velvet dries and the bulls rub it off against tree trunks

The eyesight of the moose is extremely poor, but its senses of smell and hearing compensate for this. Before bedding down, a moose usually travels upwind for a time and then swings back in a partial circle. Thus predators on its track will have to approach from windward. Skilled hunters know when to leave the track and work their way upwind to the hiding­place of their quarry.

Hunters may stalk moose, or may call them during the breeding season. A skilful hunter, imitating the cow's call, usually with the aid of a birchbark horn, can entice a bull within shooting distance.

Feeding habits
The moose lives almost solely on twigs and shrubs during the winter months. In summer this diet is varied with leaves, some upland plants, and water plants in great quantity where available. A large adult moose eats 15­20 kg, green weight, of twigs each day in winter, and in summer eats 25­30 kg of forage -- twigs, leaves, shrubs, upland plants, and water plants.

Winter forage includes twigs of balsam fir, poplar, red osier dogwood, birch, willow, and red and striped maples.

Moose also eat small amounts of many other trees and shrubs. When food becomes scarce, as it often does toward spring, moose will strip bark from trees, especially poplars. In June and July, moose gather around salt licks, usually low­lying areas of stagnant, mineral­rich water. At that season, they are feeding heavily on leaves and other lush plant growth and seem to require supplementary minerals.

Adaptation to environment
The long legs of the moose carry it easily over deadfall trees or through snow that would stop a deer or wolf. Its cloven hooves and dew claws spread widely to provide support when it wades through soft muskeg or snow. With its tremendous physical power and vitality, the moose can travel over almost any terrain. When frightened it may crash noisily through the underbrush, but in spite of its great size even a full­grown, antlered bull can move almost as silently as a cat through dense forest.

Moose stand cold very well but suffer from heat. In summer, especially when the fly season is in progress, moose often cool off in water for several hours each day. They also dip their heads under the surface to feed on water lilies and other water plants.

Moose are quite at home in the water. They sometimes dive for plants growing on a lake or pond bottom. Moose have been known to swim 19 km. Of all North American deer, only the caribou is a more powerful swimmer. A moose calf is able to follow its mother on a long swim even while very young, occasionally resting its muzzle on the cow's back for support.

Enemies and hazards
Black and grizzly bears have been known to prey heavily on moose calves during the first few weeks of life while grizzly bears easily kill adult moose.

Wolves also kill many calves and take adult moose all year. Throughout most wolf range in Canada, moose are the principal prey of wolves. In winter, wolves usually hunt in packs. Hunting healthy adult moose is a difficult and often dangerous business for wolves. Only about one confrontation in 12 ends with the wolves successfully killing a moose. Wolves not infrequently suffer broken bones and even death from the flailing hooves of cornered moose. A healthy and aggressive moose is usually able to stand off wolves. However, in deep crusted snow, or on smooth ice, a pack can easily bring down a moose. They usually run up beside their quarry and rip the tender flanks until the moose is weakened from loss of blood. In the end, wolves get almost every moose. Few die of old age.

Wolverine also prey on moose calves occasionally. Where they coexist with moose, cougar take a substantial number of moose calves and yearlings.

Deer, elk, rabbits, and even beaver compete with the moose for food.

Ticks are common on moose, especially in late winter, and may weaken animals seriously both by sucking blood and by causing the affected moose to rub off much of its hair, causing serious heat loss. Internal parasites such as the hydatid-a tiny tapeworm-affect moose, especially when lack of forage and heavy tick infestation lower their resistance.

Moose drift to the willow­rich valleys or other areas where good forage exists close to forest cover. Winter is a time of hunger for moose. They restrict their food intake and limit their activity to save energy. Where there is limited predation and hunting, moose numbers may increase to the point where food is inadequate and many animals starve while all are malnourished and more likely to be killed by predators or disease.

Changes due to humans
Since the beginning of settlement there have been considerable shifts in the distribution of moose. They are found in many regions which had no moose in presettlement days. The island of Newfoundland, which had never been occupied by moose, was "seeded" with a few pair in the early 1900s and now has large populations. Moose are constantly spreading northwards through the sparse transition forest that extends to the open tundra.

Before settlement, the large supplies of woody twigs needed by moose were provided by young forest regrowth in the wake of forest fires. With settlement came control of wildlife, fires still occur but have been widely replaced by clear­cut cut logging as a source of forest renewal and of moose forage.

Moose are an important economic resource in Northern areas. Moose hunting generates over $500 million dollars in economic activity annually and provides large amounts of food for aboriginal and other rural people. Moose are a major element in the complex of wildlife attractions that draw visitors to parks and other wildlands for nature viewing and study. These activities also result in large expenditures.

Moose respond well to management of their habitat by logging or controlled burning, provided a diversity of open areas and patches of larger trees for cover is maintained. Today, moose management is soundly based on aerial counts, habitat inventories, and scientific studies of reproductive rates and calf survival. Moose get along well with human activities and with appropriate management will always be part of the Northern scene.

Moose Stories
Go Moose



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