While moose appear gangly and awkward, they are truly a magnificent animal adapted to deep snow conditions and bitter cold. Maine is home to the highest moose population in the lower 48 states and an icon of the Maine Woods.
Bulls and cows use somewhat different habitats during the summer, which is a tradeoff between cooler temperatures for bulls and raising calves for cows. Bulls are typically found at higher elevations in mixed and hardwood stands, where food supply is less available, but shading provides cooler temperatures. Cows are found at lower elevations in regenerating stands and adjacent softwoods, because food is more concentrated. This concentrated food source limits the amount of time cows spend feeding, which limits calves vulnerability to predators. Moose winter where more hardwood browse is available, and they often feed in regenerating stands. Mature softwood is used as cover when snow depth exceeds 3 feet.
Moose subsist on browse, the leaves and twigs of woody plants. Willow, aspen, birch, maple, pin cherry, and mountain ash are important, high quality browse utilized year by moose throughout the year. In addition and since leaves are absent from hardwoods in the winter, balsam fir provides additional value for moose over the long winter. However, moose cannot survive on balsam fir alone, because it has lower nutritional value. While fire, wind throw, insect damage of trees have been the primary drivers of moose habitat, forest harvesting and subsequent regeneration of forest stands in Maine have been a significant reason for moose abundance. Sodium is also important to moose. Aquatic plants, such as pondweed and water lily, have higher sodium content than woody vegetation and are an important part of a moose's diet. Natural salt licks are rare in Maine, so moose are often seen along roads using the salt runoff as an artificial salt lick.
The average life expectancy is 8 years for a cow and 7 years for a bull. Moose may live into their late teens, but rarely live past 20.
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While moose appear gangly and awkward, they are truly a magnificent animal adapted to deep snow conditions and bitter cold. Maine is home to the highest moose population in the lower 48 states and an icon of the Maine woods.