Traveler Beware: Moose are Bigger Than You Think

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Video how big are moose

If you have never seen one up close, so you may be wondering: How big is a moose?

The short answer is that they’re bigger than a horse but smaller than an elephant. But that’s not very specific, is it?

Let’s take a closer look at how these creatures measure up against other enormous figures in the animal kingdom. Let’s get started!

What Is a Moose and Where Do They Live?

These giant, dark-brown land mammals are the largest members of the deer family and live in parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. On our continent, they are limited to the northernmost states, including Alaska, and across Canada.

Moose are herbivores. They subsist on vegetation like trees, shrubs, bark, twigs, and aquatic plants.

Among the moose’s most distinguishing physical characteristics are its branching, broad antlers. Another is its distinctive muzzle. That’s the elongated, almost limp part of its face, including the nose and mouth. This big and bulbous snout makes it easy to recognize a moose by its silhouette.

How Big Is a Moose?

These giant animals are among the biggest land mammals in the world. Their actual size depends on their subspecies, gender, and whether they’re full-grown.

Generally speaking, moose stand about six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh roughly between 800 and 1,600 pounds. They are head and shoulders above most humans, and that’s not even considering their massive antlers.

These are typical sizes for wild moose, but there have been reports of much bigger ones over the years. The largest one anyone reported was an Alaskan moose over 1,800 pounds!

Their enormous height helps them navigate through deep snow of the north with ease and reach the more tender branches high in trees during the coldest months.

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Moose Size Comparison Chart

How Big Are Moose Antlers?

Moose antlers can be as long as six feet and almost as wide.

What makes this even more impressive is that a moose generates them in only a few months. Moose shed their antlers once a year, usually in December, and grow them again starting in the spring.

Moose eating leaves
When moose antlers are covered in fuzz they are still growing

Which Is Bigger: A Moose or a Bison?

There’s no question that moose are giant animals, but they aren’t quite the biggest in North America. The heavyweight title goes to the American Bison, designated as the United States national mammal.

The bison, often mistakenly called the buffalo, isn’t taller than a moose but usually weighs over 2,500 pounds. That’s over one ton!

These two animals have something else in common. They both have humps on their backs, which are the muscles they need to support their vast and heavy heads.

Pro Tip: Learn more about the differences between a bison and a buffalo.

big moose standing in roadway
Moose, while big, still aren’t as big as the American Bison.

Which Is Bigger: A Moose or An Elk?

In Europe, this might seem like a trick question. Or at least it would not be obvious.

That’s because Europeans call the moose an elk, while in North America, the elk is an entirely different species in the deer family.

The largest elk in North America is the Roosevelt elk, and a full-grown male usually weighs around 800 pounds. That’s about half of the weight of the biggest moose.

Photographer taking photos of moose in the wild
Seeing a moose in the wild is sure to take your breath away from the sheer size of it.

The Four North American Subspecies of Moose

There are four subspecies of elks in North America. They are all very similar but also have some unique traits. They live in different parts of North America, but some overlap exists.

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Western

These are the second-largest of the four subspecies in North America. They live in British Columbia and the Yukon territory, but also parts of North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Some are in Nova Scotia, too, but they are from Saskatchewan, Canada.

Eastern

You won’t find these out West, but they are the ones you are more likely to see in New England. An estimated 350,000 range across eastern Ontario, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

Yellowstone

Also, with the name Shiras and Wyoming moose, these are the smallest of the four subspecies. That doesn’t mean they’re tiny, though; they can still weigh up to 1,000 pounds. These are the moose you’ll see in Yellowstone National Park, but they also extend westward to British Columbia.

Pro Tip: Want to search for moose in Yellowstone National Park? Make sure you know these 5 Tips for Visiting National Parks in Your RV.

Alaskan

This is the largest of the four subspecies, and people also know it as the Yukon moose. Their habitat ranges from the Stikine River in Southeast Alaska to the Colville River along the Arctic Slope. They range in color from light brown to almost black, depending on their age and the season.

Pro Tip: We loved seeing moose as one of the Big 5 in Denali National Park in Alaska.

Moose in the snow
Moose can be dangerous when they feel the need to defend themselves.

Are Moose Dangerous?

Moose aren’t predators by nature, but they regularly defend themselves against fearsome beasts like wolves and bears. They stay on guard against possible attacks and react swiftly and decisively when necessary.

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Like many animals, they become aggressive only when they feel like they are under threat. They also tend to be more aggressive during mating season, in the fall.

This is why it’s so crucial to give them ample space. Also, do not purposely approach them under any circumstances.

Moose in Yellowstone National Park
Always keep a safe distance from a moose. While herbivores, they can run and attack quick.

What to Do If You Encounter a Moose

You may encounter moose while hiking or even sightseeing in a national park. If you’re close enough to see how big it is, you’re probably too close for comfort.

In such a case, try to remain calm but don’t run. Instead, make your presence known by talking loudly enough to ensure the moose hears you. It’s a good idea to simultaneously back away in the same direction from which you came. Don’t try to outrun them; they can run up to 35 mph.

If the animal moves toward you, get behind something solid like a tree, fence, structure, or oversized vehicle. If it knocks you down, gather yourself as tightly as possible on the ground and try to protect your head.

Enjoy the Moose Wildlife But Keep Your Distance

Even though they may appear docile, it’s too dangerous to approach a moose in the wild. It could even be disastrous. Even a baby moose can weigh a few hundred pounds, and some adults are nearly a ton.

So don’t get too close to see how big a moose is. And don’t even think about feeding one. It’s a much better idea to admire these magnificent creatures from a safe distance.

Have you ever seen a moose in the wild? Tell us when and where in the comments!

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