Moose are the largest deer species in the animal kingdom in terms of size. However, these large mammals are not the most abundant in population numbers. The population of most moose species declined in the 18th and 19th centuries because of the fur trade. However, populations have regenerated since then due to more strict observances for moose hunting. Moose are generally found in cold climates in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
One of the most populous moose species is the Eurasian elk (Alces alces). This moose is native to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and Central Asia. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature claims over 1.5 million Eurasian elk exist. Most Eurasian elk specimens live in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden; Sweden has over 340,000 Eurasian elk. Some Eurasian elk grow up to 1,400 pounds.
The Alaska moose (Alces alces gigas) is native to Alaska and the western Yukon Territory in Canada. Approximately 175,000 Alaska moose are in the Last Frontier state, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. This subspecies is the largest moose in the world in terms of size. As adults, male Alaska moose weigh up to 1,800 pounds; females may weigh 800 to 1,300 pounds. Alaska allows moose hunting; around 6,000 to 8,000 moose are harvested annually.
The eastern moose (Alces alces americanus) is one of the smallest populations in the world. This moose's range spreads throughout eastern Canada and New England in the United States. The only substantial population of eastern moose --- in terms of specimens per square mile --- is in Maine. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife estimates approximately 28,000 moose live in the state. The population is abundant enough in Maine that the government allows moose hunting. Male eastern moose weigh approximately 1,000 to 1,100 pounds when mature.
The most populous moose species in North America is the western moose (Alces alces andersoni). Most western moose are found in Canada. In Canada, approximately 800,000 moose live from British Columbia to Ontario. The largest population of western moose live in the Alberta province, which has a population of over 118,000 moose. Alberta's moose generally live in the Canadian Rockies, a mountain range in the western part of the province. Western moose reach weights of over 1,700 pounds, making them one of the largest moose species.
Shiras moose (Alces alces shirasi) is the smallest moose. This moose weighs approximately 1,200 to 1,500 pounds at its largest. Shiras moose populations are found throughout the Pacific Northwest, Montana and northeast Wyoming in Yellowstone National Park. The largest population of the Shiras moose is in Wyoming, with over 4,800 specimens. One reason for the abundance in Montana is the large number of other deer species; bears and wolves hunt smaller deer before they take on a moose.
- International Union for the Conservation of Nature: Alces alces
- Wild Alaskan Guides: Alaska Moose Hunting
- Alaska Trekker: Alaska Moose
- Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: Moose Assessment
- Andrew Lake Lodge and Camps: Moose Facts; Pierre Frigon and Gord Trenholm
- The Montana Pioneer: Moose Encounters; Ben Long; November-December 2008
- Photo Credit Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images