Do Moose Hibernate? How They Adapt in the Extreme Cold?

No, moose do not hibernate, thanks to their physical adaptations that help them survive the cold. For instance, they have a thick hide that protects them from the cold. Their massive size helps them minimize heat loss, allowing them to tolerate temperatures below 20 degrees.

If moose don’t hibernate, how do they survive the harsh temperatures of the winter season? This article unveils the hibernating behavior of moose and how they stay in the winter. So, let’s get started!

Do Moose Hibernate?

Hibernation is a common behavior among many mammals. Other animals migrate to warmer areas until the Winter season passes. However, some animals don’t migrate or hibernate, including moose.

Moose might undergo certain changes to their bodies to adapt to the extreme cold temperatures of their habitat.

For instance, deer, elk, and moose change their coat for a thicker, more insulating cover which helps them survive the cold. ~ Bonners Ferry Herald

Why Do Moose Not Hibernate? Biological Adaptations That Help Survive the Cold

Moose don’t need to hibernate because they are built to survive the cold.

These animals are equipped with special biological adaptations that allow them to cope with the winter season, for instance:

Feet with Hooves

Hoofs on the moose’s feet increase its grip and allow it to stand firmly on various structures, including soft, mushy, and even hard surfaces.

moose hoof

This feature is extremely important during Winter since it allows moose to stand, even on deep snow. Because the hooves have a large surface area, they allow the moose to stay on top of the snow instead of sinking.

Moose also use their hooved feet to remove snow and look for food in Winter.

Long Legs

Moose are incredibly fast runners, thanks to their long legs, which allow them to run at incredible speeds (about 35 miles per hour).

Their long legs make it much easier for these animals to move around, even in deep snow. They are also great tools for jumping over obstacles such as fallen trees and swimming.

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Fur

Moose have hollow fur hairs, which provide additional hollow space, allowing the moose to trap its body heat around its body.

This biological adaptation allows them to thermoregulate and maintain a consistent body temperature.

Their coat keeps them warm throughout the winter, helping them survive temperatures below zero degrees.

Body Adaptations

Moose lower their metabolism in the Winter to conserve maximum energy from the limited available food supply. Research suggests that moose also lower their body temperature as the season changes.

moose fur

A study conducted on moose showed that moose body temperature falls by half a degree on average) from July to March. ~ Source

The heart rate of these animals also drops during the cold months. The lowest heart rate was recorded in March, about 41 beats per minute. This shows that moose rest in Winter and minimize physical activity.

Rumen Chamber

Moose have a second stomach known as the “rumen chamber,” like deer. Thanks to the rumen chamber, moose don’t face a food shortage even when temperatures fall below zero degrees.

It allows moose to eat woody materials, including bark, twigs, and even branches.

These foods are not as nutritious for moose as they consume in summer. But their long, large intestine keeps this food in their digestive system for a longer time. Hence, the nutrients are absorbed fully. 

What Temperature is Too Cold for Moose?

Adult moose can survive in temperatures below -22 degrees Fahrenheit and below.

However, the temperature tolerance of baby moose is slightly smaller. These young animals can withstand temperatures down to -20 degrees.

As soon as the temperature hits mid-twenties, even in the Winter, moose stress out from the heat and often lay down in the snow to cool off. This is because of their thick, warm winter coat.

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In summer, moose cannot tolerate temperatures over 57 degrees. So, at temperatures over 57, they start to experience heat and thus, forage less.

Consequently, they don’t build enough fat stores to tolerate the Winter.

What Do Moose Eat in The Winter?

Because of the snow and extreme drop in temperatures, most moose struggle to find food during the Winter.

As a result, they have to resort to eating willow bushes and woody vegetation during the Winter.

In early winter, moose eat tooth-pick-sized twigs from willow trees. When the food supply is scarce in late winter, they feed on pencil-sized twigs and even branches of willow trees, aspen, and willow twigs.

Did you know? Moose may also feed on the remains of trees and shrubs, including tree bark, thanks to their rumen chamber, which digests woody materials. ~ Source

Do Moose Migrate in the Winter?

Some moose stay in one place throughout the year, while others move from winter to summer habitats depending on where they live and the weather.

Moose don’t need to migrate because of the unique biological adaptations that help them survive the cold instead of the heat.

In winter, moose usually move toward mature coniferous forests where food i.e. twigs, bark, and branches, are readily available.

In these areas, moose can seek shelter from the thick snow, restricting their movement.

Why is Winter Difficult for Moose?

Winter is particularly difficult for most animals, especially those who do not hibernate.

Moose face difficulty during the Winter because of limited food supply and deficient energy resources.

Scientifically speaking, moose must maintain homeostasis during the Winter season, but with a limited food supply, this can be a huge energy-exploiting challenge for moose. ~ Frontiers.org

On the other hand, some scientific evidence also suggests that Winter is particularly beneficial for moose. These animals don’t go to feed sites very often. Despite that, they hardly die of malnutrition.

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Often, moose suffer from tick infestation. Some biologists report seeing thousands of ticks on a single moose!

When the temperature falls below zero for prolonged periods, the ticks die, hence helping moose combat these parasites.

Do Moose Grow Winter Coats in Winter? Moose Winter Coats Characteristics:

Moose shed their Winter coats in spring, i.e., in April or May each year. Their warm coat is replaced with short and dark hairs until June, when they start growing their winter fur.

Their winter coats consist of long hollow guard hairs. Their neck and shoulders are covered with six inches of hair. The hollow guard hairs allow them to store body heat to keep their body temperatures consistent.

Moose also have a thick undercoat of fur, which keeps them insulated against the cold in Winter.

FAQs:

What temperature is too hot for moose?

Moose find it difficult to tolerate temperatures higher than 57 degrees in the summer because of their thick winter coat.

What happens to moose in the winter?

In winter, moose limit physical activity and move to coniferous forests for food supply and to seek shelter from the snow.

How are moose adapted to cold?

Moose have several biological adaptations that help them in the winter for instance, their winter coats, hooved feet, long legs, and rumen chamber play a key role in their survival during winter.

Conclusion

Moose are fascinating creatures with amazing biological adaptations that allow them to survive the winter easily. In fact, they are better adapted to surviving the winter than the heat!

I hope this article helped you understand the behavior of moose in winter and their hibernating behavior.

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