Moose of the Bighorn Mountains

The Bighorn Mountains are one of the best places in the country to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals.
A roaring waterfall rushing down a canyon
Published on
March 20, 2024

The summer is a beautiful time to visit the Bighorns due to the incredible amount of Moose that you will encounter. My first visit to the Bighorns in the summer was at the beginning of June and being able to watch all of the calves with their mothers was enchanting. I've never been to a place where I could drive down the road and see countless moose everywhere I looked. With an estimated amount of 300-600 moose in the range, it is almost impossible to visit without witnessing these beautiful animals. Seeing these moose run and feed amongst blooming wildflowers is an experience I’ll never forget.

All About Moose

Moose are fascinating creatures, and their presence in the Bighorn Mountains adds to the rich biodiversity of the region. Here are some of the most interesting things about them!

Physical Description:

  • Moose (Alces alces) are the largest members of the deer family, with adult males (bulls) weighing between 800 to 1,200 pounds and standing up to 6.5 feet tall at the shoulder.
  • Male moose (bulls) are significantly larger than females (cows), with adult bulls weighing between 800 to 1,200 pounds (360 to 540 kg) and standing up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) tall at the shoulder, while cows weigh around 600 to 800 pounds (270 to 360 kg).
  • They are easily recognizable by their long legs, humped shoulders, broad, palmate antlers (in males), and distinctive bulbous nose or "bell."
  • Moose have a specialized nose with large, fleshy appendages known as "bell." This bulbous nose helps to enhance their sense of smell, allowing them to detect predators, locate food, and communicate with other moose over long distances.
  • Moose exhibit significant subspecies diversity across their range. For example, the Alaska moose (Alces alces gigas) is the largest subspecies, while the Shiras moose (Alces alces shirasi) is the smallest and is found in the Rocky Mountains region.
  • Moose have highly sensitive ears capable of detecting sounds from long distances. They can rotate their ears independently to pinpoint the source of a sound, helping them remain vigilant against potential threats.

Incredible Speed and Agility:

  • Despite their large size, moose are surprisingly fast and agile. They can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) and are capable of maneuvering through dense forests with ease.


  • Mating typically occurs in September and October, with calves born in late spring or early summer.
  • Calves stay with their mothers for about a year, learning essential survival skills before venturing off on their own.

Unique Antlers:

  • Moose have the fastest antler growth rate of any mammal, capable of growing up to an inch per day during the summer months. Their antlers are one of the fastest-growing tissues in the animal kingdom.
  • Unlike deer species, moose shed their antlers annually, typically after the mating season. This process usually occurs in late autumn or early winter, with new antler growth beginning in the spring.

Gestation Period and Calves:

  • The gestation period for moose is approximately 8 months. Calves are typically born in late spring or early summer, usually in May or June, following the mating season in the fall.
  • Moose calves are incredibly precocious and can stand and walk within hours of birth. They remain close to their mothers for protection and nourishment during their first year of life.

Swimming Abilities:

  • Moose are excellent swimmers and are capable of crossing large bodies of water with ease. They can swim at speeds of up to 6 miles per hour (9.6 km/h) and are known to dive underwater to feed on aquatic vegetation.


  • Moose are typically found in forested areas near water sources, such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes, which provide both food and cover.
  • In the Bighorn Mountains, moose can be found in dense forests, particularly in areas with willows and other aquatic vegetation that they feed on.


  • Moose are typically solitary animals, with individuals only coming together during the mating season (rut) in Autumn or when a cow is accompanied by her calf. Bulls are especially solitary outside of the mating season.
  • They are herbivores and mainly feed on twigs, leaves, bark, and aquatic plants. In winter, they may also browse on conifers.
  • Despite their large size, moose are excellent swimmers and can dive underwater to feed on aquatic vegetation.

Importance in Ecosystem:

  • Moose play a crucial role in shaping their environment through their browsing habits. By feeding on vegetation, they help control plant growth and maintain healthy ecosystems.
  • They are also an important food source for predators like wolves and bears, contributing to the balance of the ecosystem.

Migration Patterns:

  • Moose in the Bighorn Mountains may exhibit seasonal migration patterns, moving to higher elevations in summer to escape heat and insects, and descending to lower elevations in winter to find food and shelter.

Adaptations to Mountainous Terrain:

  • Moose have evolved various adaptations to thrive in mountainous environments like the Bighorn Mountains. Their long legs and broad hooves help them navigate rugged terrain and deep snow.
  • They may also seek shelter in dense forests during harsh weather conditions, utilizing the cover provided by trees.

Interactions with Other Wildlife:

  • Moose share their habitat with a diverse range of wildlife species in the Bighorn Mountains, including elk, deer, black bears, and mountain lions.
  • Understanding the dynamics of these interactions, such as competition for resources or predator-prey relationships, provides valuable insights into the mountain ecosystem's functioning.

Herbivorous Diet:

  • Moose are herbivores and primarily feed on a diet of twigs, leaves, bark, and aquatic vegetation. During winter months when food is scarce, they may also browse on coniferous trees and shrubs.


  • While generally quiet animals, moose can produce a range of vocalizations, including grunts, bellows, and low-frequency calls. These vocalizations are often used during 

Unique Fur:

  • Moose are well-adapted to cold climates, with several physiological adaptations to help them survive harsh winter conditions. These include a thick, insulating layer of fur, specialized nasal passages that retain heat and moisture, and a metabolic rate that increases in colder temperatures.
  • In preparation for winter, moose grow a thick, insulating layer of underfur beneath their longer guard hairs. This adaptation helps them retain body heat and stay warm in subzero temperatures.

Oldest Recorded Moose:

  • The oldest recorded moose lived to be 22 years old in captivity. In the wild, their lifespan is typically shorter, averaging around 10 to 15 years.

Safety Reminder:

  • Despite their seemingly docile demeanor, moose can be aggressive and dangerous, especially during the mating season or if they feel threatened. They have been known to charge at humans and vehicles, making it essential to give them ample space and avoid provoking them.
  • While moose are generally shy and avoid humans, they can become aggressive, especially during the rut or if they feel threatened.
  • In areas where moose and humans overlap, such as near hiking trails or residential areas, it's essential for people to give these animals space and respect their habitat.

These additional facts provide further insight into the remarkable biology, behavior, and cultural significance of moose, highlighting their importance as iconic symbols of the wilderness.

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