Last updated: 28th September 2023
The Moose is one of the tallest mammals in North America and the largest of all deer species. Unlike other species of deer, Moose do not live in herds. Males, also known as bulls, grow antlers, which shed off in winter and grow in spring.
In 1606, the word moose, which had originated from Algonquian languages, became used in English for the first time. According to some sources, the name is derived from “moosu,” which means “he strips off.” The scientific name is based on the geographical location is Alces americanus.
Moose were once widely distributed in both Europe and the United States, but their presence has significantly declined in these regions. Nowadays, moose primarily inhabit extensive areas across North America, Europe, and Asia. However, the majority of the moose population can be found in specific regions, including Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Russia. These areas serve as the primary habitats and strongholds for moose populations in their respective continents.
Where Did The Name Come From?
It is believed that the word moose is derived from the Eastern Abenaki “moos,” which means “strips bark from the trees.” Captain John Smith, in 1616 wrote in his Description of New England that he saw “Moos,” a beast bigger than Stagge.
In Great Britain, Moose are known as elk (Megaloceros giganteus); however, elk (Cervus canadensis) in North America are different animals. The word “elk” is derived from Proto-Germanic, from which Old English grew and mixed into other Indo-European languages.
In the continental-European languages, the word “elk” is different, i.e., elg in Danish/Norwegian, älg in Swedish, alnis in Latvian, Elch in German and łoś in Polish languages is used for Alces alces.
The dictionaries of the 18th century defined “elk” as a sizeable horse-like deer. However, in North America, wapiti (Cervus canadensis) is referred to as elk, although very different animals. In the American colonization period in the 17th century, the name Moose remained confusing because of its resemblance to wapiti.
Four subspecies are recognized in North America
- Eastern Moose, scientifically called Alces alces Americana lives in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
- Northwestern Moose, accurately called Alces alces andersoni lives in central Canada and North Dakota, Minnesota, and northern Michigan.
- Shiras Moose, scientifically called Alces alces shirasi, lives in the Rocky Mountains of the United States and Canada .
- Alaskan Moose, carefully called Alces alces gigas lives in Alaska and northwestern Canada.
Some classifications also include Eurasian subspecies of Moose
- European Moose is recognized as Alces alces alces.
- Siberian or Yakut Moose are recognized as Alces alces pfizenmayeri.
- West Siberian or Ussuri moose are recognized as Alces Alces cameloides.
- East Siberian or Kolyma moose are known as Alces alces buturlini.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.