The disturbed rustling of leaves and the sharp snapping of twigs herald the approach of a formidable creature. Finally, through the vegetation an endless lanky leg protrudes, slowly followed by another. Towering above, the massive head of the great beast casually surveys the surrounding land. Its disproportionately elongated snout is raised, and the huge nostrils flare as the air is checked for the scent of unseen danger. Standing six feet (two metres) high at the shoulder and weighing over one thousand pounds Four hundred and fifty kilograms), this giant commands respect. Its long neck stretches, and with a quiet snap it rips the tender tips off nearby shrubs.
The Algonkian Indians had an appropriate name for this magnificent animal. Their word "mons" or "moz" (depending on the dialect)has been adopted into the English language as "moose." Although the word we currently use offers scant information about the animal, "twig eater"a loose translation of the Algonkian termprovides an apt description of its diet...
Although moose lack teeth in the front of the upper jaw, they have little trouble dealing with the woody plant material that constitutes much of their diet. They feed on fresh leaves by browsing and may even pull a shoot sideways through their mouth, frequently stripping off up to two feet (one-half metre) of vegetation with the aid of the tough, thick tongue and lips. They also browse the tips of twigs, particularly the most recent growth. Regardless of how it is attained, the plant material is thoroughly crushed between twelve sets of broad, flattened teeth at the rear of the mouth, six pairs of molars and six pairs of premolars...
Although many different plants are eaten by moose, the type consumed depends on the availability, both geographically and seasonally. In general, preferred trees and shrubs include willows (Salix), trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), redosier dogwood (Comus stolonifera), red maple (Acer rubrum), striped maple (Acer pennsylvanicum), white birch (Betula papyrifera), beaked hazelnut (Corylus rostrata), pin cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica) and, primarily in winter, balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Aquatic plants, particularly water shield (Brasenia schreberi), yellow pond lily (Nuphar sp.) and pondweed (Potamogeton sp.),constitute a preferred and important part of the moose's diet in summer.
Excerpted with permission from Moose Country: Saga of the Woodland Moose. Copyright ©1991 by Michael W. P. Runtz. Pictures and text copyright © 1991 by Michael W. P. Runtz. All Rights Reserved. (First two paragraphs taken from the Forward contributed by Dr. A. (Tony) B. Bubenik.)
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