The moose is the world’s largest deer (Cervidae), with its large, tagged antlers as its distinguishing feature. Only the bull moose has antlers, which are largest at 6-12 years of age. The antlers are replaced every year, starting to grow in the early spring and sometimes growing up to 1.9 cm per day. They are fully developed by August/September. Traditionally, moose antlers are important trophies for hunters; the more tags on the antlers the higher the trophy’s status.
Moose are found in northern Europe, Asia and North America. There are around 500,000 moose in Europe, and 500,000 to 1 million in Canada and the neighbouring regions. Large moose populations are primarily now found in Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Baltic states. In the summer there are around 300,000–400,000 moose in Sweden, and around 100,000 of these are shot in the autumn.
The size of the moose varies depending on the sex, subspecies and the habitat. Moose are generally larger in northern Sweden than they are in southern Sweden. In Sweden, a cow moose is normally 150–170 cm and the withers and a bull is 180–210 cm, with weights of 270–360 kg and 380–540 kg respectively. Calves are born in May/June and weight around 15 kg. The bull is thus about twenty per cent bigger than the cow.
Moose live in forests, with their primary food being leaves, shoots and small twigs of aspen, oak and birch in the summer. Bilberry shrubs are also included in their diet in the autumn, and crops from cultivated fields can also appeal to moose. During the winter they eat pine and juniper scrub and some moose also get a taste for pine bark.
The moose has been hunted since ancient times and it is regarded as an important game animal in many places around the world. In Sweden, moose hunting is done both for meat and to keep down the size of the population. If the moose population is too big it results in serious damage to forests, as well as a large number of traffic accidents. Every year, 8-12 people die in the approximately 50,000 road accidents involving wildlife. The annual cost of accidents involving moose amounts to around SEK 1 billion, according to the Swedish Transport Agency. It is also said that moose cause damage worth millions to forestry companies every year and that their grazing has a great impact on biological diversity.
In Sweden, moose can usually be hunted from the first Monday in September until 31 January. However, the period varies from county to county and year to year. The permitted hunting times are from 1 hour before sunrise until sunset.
The Swedish Transport Agency had problems for a number of years with German tourists stealing moose warning signs.