Gentle giants of the North
And moose tastes good, too!

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 15/00) - The biggest land animal in the North is also among the most gentle.

Weighing as much as 750 kilograms, moose are a remarkably adaptable animal, with a range that extends from the 60th parallel to the arctic coast.

"You actually see moose as far north as Kugluktuk," said Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development ecologist John Nishi.

"They're associated with the Coppermine River drainage. There's lots of boughs and foraging habitat in there for them. They're not just restricted to the areas below the treeline."

Kugluktuk hunters take moose in the Dismal Lakes area, about 80 kilometres south of the community and moose have been reported within five kilometres of the coastline near the Tree River.

"The densities aren't as high up there because there's less food and there's less cover for them," said Nishi.

"But they're able to get enough food even in that area. It gives you an idea of how adaptable they are."

Moose are integral to the traditional lifestyle of the Dene of the NWT, who once relied on the animal for food, clothing and shelter.

As much as 300 kilograms of meat can be taken from a single moose and the killing of one was cause for celebration in the old days.

Like most animals in the NWT, experts do not have a precise estimate of the numbers of moose in the NWT.

Harvest studies have been undertaken at Fort Providence and Fort Resolution, but more information is needed to determine how much hunting is sustainable. RWED currently estimates 1,000 to 2,000 moose are taken in the NWT each year.

Considering their size compared to that of the plants they eat, moose have to spend most of their time grazing.

Moose process the shrubs they feed on in the same way a cow processes its food. The willows, dogwood and small twigs they eat pass through a series of four compartments, often mistakenly referred to as stomachs. Microbes that live inside one of the chambers help digest the food.

Moose cows typically give birth to a single calf each year.

"They are known to have twins as well when there's good available forage for them," said Nishi.