Why Do Moose have Antlers?


Moose are the largest of the deer family and are one of the largest mammals in North America. They have the largest antlers of all deer species.

Moose antlers are huge weighing up to 30 pounds and up to 60 inches wide. Moose use their antlers during the rut to compete for mating rights. Males will scare off and fight other males to prove their dominance over females. Moose with the largest antlers often mate first.

The land mammal also dwells in Canada and Alaska. Moose can move each eye and ear independently. The average lifespan of cow moose and bull Moose is eight and seven years, respectively. 

In addition, moose sleep on the ground, and their stomach can store more than 100 pounds of food. Moose are peaceful mammals that rarely become violent or aggressive. There are many interesting facts about moose. However, many people ask: why do moose have antlers? Let us answer this question!

Moose

Why Do Moose Have Antlers?

Antlers are an extension of a moose’s skull. Unlike horns grown by most species of the deer family, moose can shed and regrow antlers each year. Although antlers don’t have any significant function in most times of the year, they become important in the fall and during the mating season, also known as the rut. 

Moose use antlers to scare off their rivals and competitors in their habitat. These species of the deer family use antlers when intimidation and posturing don’t work while confronting their opponents, such as mature bull moose. That’s why they face off head to head and fight each other by locking their antlers. 

Sometimes, antlers are disadvantageous for moose, especially when they fight each other. As a result, the antlers entangle, and the two moose can’t separate them, which can cause their death. Bear in mind that damaged or broken antlers take a long time to recover.

The abnormal growth of moose antlers is often due to scrotum or testicles injuries, leading to reduced testosterone production. Low levels or imbalanced testosterone is the primary cause of abnormal antler growth. 

When Do Moose Get Their Antlers?

Moose grow their antlers in the spring and summer and use them during the rut or breeding season in September or October. Bear in mind that only male moose or bulls have antlers. A male moose calves develop a bony protuberance by the end of the summer, which persists through its first year. After the initial development, moose grows antlers each spring or summer throughout its life. 

Research highlights that the largest moose antlers come from the Yukon Territory in Alaska and northwest Canada. Alaska also has trophy age class moose with 50 inches or 127cm antlers. Some moose species occasionally develop trophy-size antlers when they are six or seven years old. 

Other moose develop and grow the largest antlers at approximately ten years of age. Research highlights that the maximum lifespan is around sixteen years, and these species rarely survive after this age. A network of blood vessels nourishes and supports antlers’ growth. These blood vessels are in a soft, smooth skin called the velvet, which is shed by August or September. 

Large-sized moose have flat and shovel-like antlers that weigh 25 to 30 pounds and measure four to five feet wide. Besides, the size of antlers does not indicate a moose’s age. Male moose use their antlers to threaten and fight other males for females, trash brush, and root plants from the pond floor. 

Moose antlers are primarily made from calcium, which plays a crucial role in bone development. The blood supply dries up when antlers reach full size by late summer, dropping off the velvet and leaving the recognizable whitish antlers. 

Find out more facts about moose in this article I have written here

Moose

How Do Moose Use Their Antlers?

Antlers show the strength of moose during the mating season. A male moose uses antlers to fight other males, making them stay away from female moose, and the purpose is to compete for mating. 

Male moose also use these bony structures to scare off younger or weaker males. Antlers are the first line of defense for moose species against their opponents and predators. So, they use antlers as a weapon. 

Why Do Moose Shed Their Antlers?

Like elk and deer, moose shed their antlers naturally. The process occurs every year once a moose reaches maturity. Because the male moose experiences changes in testosterone levels during the mating or breeding season, the growth of antlers slows down.

The purpose is to reabsorb calcium from the antlers and ensure adequate testosterone production. So, calcium reabsorption weakens the joint between the antler and the skull. As a result, the antler drops or sheds. 

Testosterone is an essential hormone that improves a male moose’s reproductive system and physical stamina. A male moose needs higher testosterone levels when mating with a female moose. 

However, this is impossible without an adequate amount of calcium. That’s why moose naturally shed antlers to reabsorb calcium from the bony structures to boost testosterone production.

Do Female Moose Have Antlers?

Many features distinguish female moose from male ones. For instance, female moose weigh between 800 and 1,300 pounds, and males weigh between 1,200 and 1,600 pounds. Female moose have relatively longer, thicker dark brown fur. The hair is hollow enough to keep the female species warm in winter. 

Antlers are bony structures that grow on a male moose’s skull. It is one of the primary features that distinguish male moose from female ones. Generally, female moose do not have antlers, but they can develop and grow these structures due to abnormal hormones production. 

Ever wondered how moose got their name?  Find out in this article I wrote.

Final Words 

Moose is one of the largest members of the Cervidae deer family and Artiodactyla order. Moose vary in shape and size depending on their species and subspecies. These species have a skin color that ranges from light brown, dark brown to dusty black, depending on the animal’s age. On the other hand, calves have a light and rusty appearance. 

There are four subspecies of moose recognized in North America. These include eastern moose of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, northwestern moose in central Canada, northern Michigan, Minnesota, and Dakota. 

The Shiras Moose are found in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Montana, Utah, and Oregon. However, their smallest subspecies are also found in North America. The fourth subspecies is Alaska moose found in western Yukon. 

These are the largest moose subspecies in North America. Antlers are bony structures made from calcium. Only male species develop and grow antlers during the spring or summer and shed them before winter. These species use antlers to scare off their rivals, fight their opponents to compete for females, and protect themselves.

If you want to find out more about moose I have written a complete guide here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Nature.

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