Monday, September 5, 2016

Firsts : Moose in Wyoming

Young moose (Alces americanus) in Wyoming
                Of course, the first moose (Alces americanus) I encountered in the wild was not in California. 
Young moose
                 California is home to four native ungulate species - mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), pronghorn (Antilocarpa americana), two subspecies of elk (Cervus canadensis, formerly C. elaphus), and bighorn sheep (Orvis canadensis) - but no moose.
Browsing on aquatic plants
                In the summer of 2007, my parents and I visited Grand Teton National Park , in the northwest part of Wyoming.  One evening, we were lucky enough to stumble upon two moose, feeding nearly belly-deep in a pond.  They appear to both be young males.  We watched them for quite some time, from a respectable distance, and they seemed entirely oblivious to our presence.  (More likely, they were fully aware of us, and fully aware that they had the upper hand.)
Typical moose habitat: pond, surrounded by willows and alders
Moose range across Alaska and Canada, and down into the northern part of the Rocky Mountains.  During the summer months, they are often associated with tall grasses and willow and alder thickets, often in or near water.  In addition to browsing on leaves and twigs, moose also feed on aquatic plants. 
Seeing two moose in the wild was breathtaking experience for me as a naturalist.  They are truly magnificent animals!

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