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Biological Characteristics   


Alces alces is the largest member of the deer family. Males are much larger than females with a palmate antler spread of 120-150cm, 1950-225 cm high at the shoulder, and 206-279 cm in length. Bulls (males) range from 405-630kg in weight and cows (females) 315-495kg (Knoft, 1980).  They have long dark brown hair with pale legs and stubby tails.

Status in Estuaries

Moose are solitary in summer, but may gather at food sources near streams and lakes to feed on aquatic vegetation, especially in winter months. Moose may submerge themselves to feed and are excellent swimmers, able to move at speeds up to 6mph for as long as 2 hours. They prefer spruce forest, swamps, and aspen and willow thickets. Moose cows birth either a single calf or twin calves once a year (Peterson, 1955). Most adult moose live for 15 years (Cederlund and Sand, 1994), although some can live for as many as 20 years (Peterson, 1955).

Abundance and Range

The moose is distributed throughout the northeastern U.S., Alaska, and Canada. Their range also extends through the Rocky Mountains into northeast Utah and northwest Colorado, at population densities up to 0.68 moose per square kilometer of land (Stewart and Flynn, 1978; Cederlund and Sand, 1994).

Site Fidelity

Although moose wander freely within their home range, and often spen winters near rivers, moose are not migratory.  Moose prefer to remain in their home range unless forced to leave by habitat destruction, famine, natural disaster, or overpopulation.  The average annual home range of an adult moose is approximately 26 square kilometers per male, 14 square kilometers per female.  Female moose with young (<12 months age) have a much smaller home range, of about 2.2 square kilometers (Cederlund and Sand, 1994).

Ease of Census

Average. Their large size allows for aerial census, and low reproductive rate maintains a stable population.

Feeding Habits

Moose feed on primarily aquatic vegetation and willows in the summer; woody plants, aquatic vegetation, and barks during the winter.

Moose Contaminant Exposure Data


Organochlorine Contaminants


No direct exposure data available


Cholinesterase-Inhibiting Pesticides   


No direct exposure data available


Trace Elements, Metals, and Metalloids


Livers and kidneys were collected from moose (N=16) exhibiting abnormal behavior in Nova Scotia and compared against material from Newfoundland moose (N=10) in or about 1958 (Beeler et al., 1959). Means are presented in g/g. Liver: Nova Scotia Co 0.11, Mo 0.40, Zn 73.2, Cu 53.7. Newfoundland Co 0.08, Mo 0.36, Zn 52.5, Cu 50.0. Kidney: Nova Scotia Co 0.06, Mo 0.19, Zn 52.9, Cu 8.1. Newfoundland Co 0.06, Mo 0.20, Zn 37.7, Cu 7.7.


Hair samples from 317 Alaskan moose were collected between May 1972-May 1973 (Franzmann et al., 1974. Data is organized by the environmental location of the moose. Mean ranges were presented in g/g: Ca 201.1-744.6, Mg 22.5-174.5, K 257.5-2,090.4, Na 407.1-1,235.4, Cd 0.2-1.5, Cu 1.4-14.7, Fe 24.6-66.8, Pb 4.0-25.5, Mn 0.1-15.7, Zn 34.6-98.9.


The hair samples (N=317) from the Franzmann, Flynn, and Arneson study of May 1972-1973 were re-analyzed for elements previously not tested, and the data analyzed for temporal trends rather than spatial trends.  Data is organized by date of collection, and presents seasonal variation data of elements in moose.  Mean ranges were presented in ug/g dry weight: Ca 137.0-283.0, Cu 7.3-13.0, Cd .3-1.4, K 854.9-1759.2, Fe 34.8-68.0, Mg 364-191.8, Mo 2.4-3.4, Mn 0.1-10.3, Na 680.8-1374.6, Pb 5.5-17.6, Zn 60.1-81.5. Forage plants from each of the sampling locations are also assayed for their mineral composition (Franzmann, Flynn, and Arneson, 1975).


Hair samples (N=459) from Saskatchewan moose tagged for another study, as well as hunter killed moose were analyzed for elemental content.  Mean concentrations of metals were reported in ug/g of dry weight:  Ca 955.55-1793.09, Co 0.117-0.329, Cu 10.55-29.06, Fe 24.69-33.80, Hg 0.071-0.100, K 1677.17-2303.13, Mg 245.67-955.55, Mn 0.425-1.143, Mo 0.519-0.815, Na 1301.21-1760.00, Pb 2.41-19.89, Se 1.563-2.397, Zn 90.84-121.18 (Stewart and Flynn, 1978)


Hair samples were collected from the dorsal surface of the neck region from moose in 8 areas of Maine (Schemnitz 1977).  Mean concentrations are presented per wildlife management unit in g/g dry weight.  Aroostook Agricultural (N=1): Al 36, Mn 16, Mo 1.5, Ca 980, P 310, Mg 220, Zn 78, Cu 12, Fe 205, B 6.0, K 4800.  Northern Wilderness (N=5): Al 9, Mn 19, Mo 1.7, Ca 1514, P 286, Mg 168, Zn 100, Cu 11, Fe 57, B 5.2, K 3040.  Western Recreation (N=5): Al 23, Mn 11, Mo 1.2, Ca 894, P 256, Mg 174, Zn 88, Cu 9, Fe 69, B 3.8, K 2440. Central (N=9): Al 38, Mn 23, Mo 1.5, Ca 724, P 336, Mg 184, Zn 85, Cu 9, Fe 111, B 3.3, K 1778. Eastern Woodland (N=2): Al 100, Mn 25, Mo 1.7, Ca 755, P 340, Mg 195, Zn 85, Cu 9, Fe 184, B 8.0, K 2300.  Eastern Coastal (N=1): Al 30, Mn 24, Mo 3.0, Ca 490, P 300, Mg 500, Zn 120, Cu 8, Fe 31, B 6.0, K 1600.  Central Coastal (N=3): Al 21, Mn 18, Mo 1.4, Ca 563, P 293, Mg 157, Zn 79, Cu 11, Fe 93, B 1.8, K 1433. Western Coastal (N=4): Al 7, Mn 11, Mo 1.6, Ca 572, P 255, Mg 172, Zn 83, Cu 6, Fe 14, B 1.0, K 1025.


One moose collected in 1977 from Poland contained 2.6 g/g Cu and 44 g/g Zn in muscle (Falandysz et al., 1986 in Falandysz 1994).


In 1979 (N=21) and 1980 (N=69-79) liver and kidney tissue was collected from moose in Sweden (Mattsson et al., 1981 in Falandysz 1994).  The following mean values (1979, 1980, respectively) are presented in wet weight.  Liver: 960, 450 ng/g Cd, 43, 33 g/g Cu, 4.8, 3.1 g/g Mn, 32, 31 g/g Zn. Kidney: 4400, 2300 ng/g Cd, 4.4, 3.0 g/g Cu, 4.3, 2.7 g/g Mn, 31, 25 g/g Zn.


Tissue samples were collected from moose in Maine in 1980 and Norway between 1983-1984 (Scanlon et al., 1986).  Overall mean concentrations of Cd (g/g dry weight) in Maine moose were 5.64 in liver and 26.76 in kidney. Cadmium in bone was usually below the detection limit. Mean Cd concentrations in Norway moose were: Bramble- liver (N=13) 2.07, kidney (N=13) 20.52, muscle (N=11) 0.13, Bo- liver (N=14) 1.28, kidney (N=14) 8.36, muscle (N=12) 0.03, Vinje- liver (N=21) 1.79, kidney (N=20) 9.08, muscle (N=17) 0.03.


Moose collected in Estonia between 1980-1992 (Hodrejarv and Ott, 1982 in Falandysz 1994). Mean values are presented in wet weight.  Liver (N=40): 40 ng/g Hg, 900 ng/g Cd, 5.0 g/g Cu, 3.3 g/g Mn, 30 g/g Zn. Kidney (N=25): 88 ng/g Hg, 7600 ng/g Cd, 3.1 g/g Cu, 2.7 g/g Mn, 23g/g Zn.


Between 1983-1986, liver and kidney samples were collected from 8 fetuses, 12 newborns, 25 older calves and 134 adult moose from different regions of Finland (Hyvarinen and Nygren, 1993). For adults (>1 year old), mean concentrations (g/g dry weight) from the six regions ranged from 89.9-232.7 Cu, 81.4-128.0 Zn, and 2.64-3.76 Mo in liver and 9.2-12.2 Cu in kidney.  Copper concentrations in fetal liver increased up to the time of parturition, with maximums of 6300 and 4400 g/g in twins.  In newborns, hepatic Cu concentration decreased after parturition during the period of rapid growth and by the hunting season (October-November) tended to lower than in adult moose.


Samples of moose (N=431) liver and kidney were collected from zones south of Quebec in the hunting season of 1985 (Crete et al., 1987).  Mean Cd concentrations were 2.9-15.9 g/g dry weight in liver (N=306) and 31.8-100.5 g/g (N=125) in kidney.  Lower Cd levels were generally found in females over males, and moose collected from the eastern zones of Quebec.


Samples of moose liver (N=187), kidney (N=197), muscle (N=108), hair and the lower jaw were collected during 1984 and 1985 in Ontario, Canada (Glooschenko et al., 1988). Mean Cd values (g/g wet weight) were 0.6-51.4 kidney, 0.8-5.7 liver, and ND-0.2 muscle from non-buffered soil areas, and 0.7- 25.0 kidney, 0.4-5.0 liver, and ND-trace in muscle from buffered soil areas.


Tissues were collected from either road-killed or hunter-killed moose from New Hampshire (1986-1998, N=222), Maine (1993, N=21), and Vermont (1993, N=10) (Gustafson et al., 2000).  In New Hampshire, hepatic Cd concentrations in bulls and cows, respectively (ug/g wet weight) were 9.10 and 14.00 in 1988, 7.90 and 7.10 in 1989, 12.27 in 1993 (bull only), and 16.18 and 11.28 in 1998.  Kidney concentrations were 38.00 and 41.00 in 1988, and 61.00 and 51.00 in 1989.  In Maine, bulls contained 7.33 ug/g in liver.  In Vermont, hepatic concentrations were 8.14 ug/g in bulls and 4.72 ug/g in cows.  Overall, bulls had higher Cd levels than cows, and Cd concentrations increased with age.  Mean Cd levels in adult bulls in New Hampshire increased significantly from 1988 to 1998.


Muscle from 2 moose collected from northern Poland in 1987 contained <1 ng/g wet weight Hg, <5 ng/g Cd, 0.86 and 1.4 g/g Cu, 0.089 and 0.19 g/g Mn, 29 and 39 g/g Zn, and 22 and 32 g/g Fe (Falandysz 1994).


Moose (N=228) collected from Manitoba from 1987-1989 contained mean (range) Cd concentrations of 6.84 (0.18-38.00) ug/g dry weight in kidney cortex and 1.19 (0.01-4.70) ug/g in liver (Crichton and Paquet, 2000).


Liver and kidney were collected in 1989 and 1990 from Jarfjord, Pasvik, and in western Finnmark in Sweden (Sivertsen et al., 1995). Tissues were analyzed for air pollution contaminants.  Medians and ranges for elements are reported in g/g wet weight in liver, except where noted: Jarford (N=10) Al 0.04 (0.02-0.10), As <0.01 (<0.01-0.02), Cd 0.2 (0.1-0.6), Co 0.11 (0.02-0.14), Cr <0.01 (<0.01-0.04), Cu 57 (35-130), Hg <0.01 (<0.01-0.01), Ni liver 0.02 (<0.01-0.14) kidney 0.19 (0.09-0.50), Pb 0.01 (<0.01-0.19), Se 2.2 (0.77-3.7), Zn 25 (17-110). Pasvik (N=27) Al 0.08 (0.01-2.2), As <0.01 (<0.01-0.02), Cd 0.2 (<0.1-0.9), Co 0.10 (0.05-0.14), Cr <0.01 (<0.01-0.09), Cu 48 (5-86), Hg <0.01 (<0.01-0.02), Ni liver <0.01 (<0.01-0.09) kidney 0.12 (0.01-0.42), Pb <0.01 (<0.01-0.12), Se 0.94 (0.223.0), Zn 22 (13-85). W. Finnm. (N=16) Al 0.05 (0.02-0.50), As <0.01 (<0.01-0.07), Cd 0.3 (<0.1-1.7), Co 0.10 (0.01-0.15), Cr <0.01 (<0.01-0.06), Cu 87 (18-215), Hg <0.01 (<0.01-0.04), Ni liver <0.01 (<0.01-0.01) kidney 0.03 (<0.01-0.07), Pb <0.01 (<0.01-0.05), Se 0.88 (0.22-9.1), Zn 29 (13-59).


Selenium concentrations in blood collected from 2 moose on Mount Spokane, Washington in January 1992 were 0.01 and 0.012 ug/g wet weight (Hein et al., 1994).


Portions of liver tissue from 9 moose in the providence of Saskatchewan contained mean (range) concentrations of 47.4 (14.1-82.7) g/g Cu, 3.26 (2.07-7.93) g/g Mn, 0.098 (0.08-0.17) g/g Pb and 28.0 (16.9-44.8) g/g Zn (Treble and Thompson, 1998).


Tissues from immobilized moose and carcasses were collected between 1995-1997 on the north slope of Alaska (OHara et al., 2001). Mineral and heavy metal levels were recorded in g/g. Captured males had higher levels of Ca and Cu (970.5 and 3.94) in hair than females.  Female moose hair samples were determined to be deficient in Cu 2.77, Ca 599.7, Fe 37.4, and Se 0.30. Serum Cu (M=0.34, F=0.29) and Zn (M=0.96, F=0.89) were considered deficient as well.




No direct exposure data available


Other Contaminants


During the period of May 1986-April 1987, following the Chernobyl accident (1986), muscle tissue samples were collected from 3661 moose in northern Sweden (Danell et al., 1989). Cesium-137 levels in samples were about 470 Bq/kg fresh mass for calves and 300 Bq/kg for adults. 137Cs levels in moose before the accident were 33 Bq/kg. Concentrations in moose muscle were positively correlated with ground deposition of cesium.

Moose Contaminant Response Data


Organochlorine Contaminants


No response data available


Cholinesterase-Inhibiting Pesticides


No response data available


Trace Elements, Metals, and Metalloids


Mandibles from moose (N=147) were collected between 19901993 in the vicinities of Norwegian aluminum smelters and examined for fluoride exposure effects  (Vikoren and Stuve, 1996). Of the 30 mandibles examined from the Ardal site, 1 had marked dental fluorosis. Moose from Vefsn site (N=117) did not have dental fluorosis.




No response data available

for Moose

Beeler D.A., D.A. Benson, and W.M. Langille. 1959. Mineral analyses of livers and kidneys of moose (Alces americana). J. Wildl. Manage. 23:356-358.

Cederlund, G. and Sand, H. Home-Range size in relation to age and sex in moose. J. Mammal, 75(4):1005-1012.

Crichton, V., and P.C. Paquet.  2000.  Cadmium in Manitobas wildlife.  Alces 36:205-216.

Crete, M., F. Potvin, P. Walsh, J. Benedetti, M. A. Lefebvre, J. Weber, G. Paillard, and J. Gagnon. 1987. Pattern of cadmium contamination in the liver and kidneys of moose and white-tailed deer in Quebec. Sci. Total. Environ. 66:45-53.

Danell, K., P. Nelin, and G. Wickman. 1989. Caesium-137 in nothern Swedish moose: the first year after the Chernobyl accident. Ambio 18:108-111.

Flandysz, J.  1994.  Some toxic and trace metals in big game hunted in the northern part of Poland in 1987-1991.  Sci. Total Environ  141:59-73.

Franzmann, A.W., A. Flynn, and P.D. Arneson, Oldemeyer, J.L.. 1974. Monitoring moose mineral metabolism via hair element analysis.North American mose Conference. Proceedings. 10: 1-21.

Franzmann, A.W., A. Flynn, and P.D. Arneson. 1975. Levels of some mineral elements in Alaskan moose hair. J. Wildl. Mange. 39:374-378.

Glooschenko, V., C. Downes, R. Frank, H.E. Braun, E.M. Addison, and J. Hickie. 1988. Cadmium levels in Ontario moose and deer in relation to soil sensitivity to acid precipitation. Sci. Total Environ. 71:173-186.

Gustafson, K.A., K.M. Bontaites, and A. Major.  2000.  Analysis of tissue cadmium concentrations in New England moose.  Alces 36:35-40.

Hein, R.G., P.A. Talcott, J.L. Smith, and W.L. Myers.  1994.  Blood selenium values of selected wildlife populations in Washington.  Northwest Sci. 68:185-188.

Hyvarinen, H. and T. Nygren. 1993. Accumulation of copper in the liver of moose in Finland. J. Wildl. Manage. 57:469-474.

OHara, T.M., G. Carroll, P. Barboza, K. Mueller, J. Blake, V. Woshner and C. Willetto. 2001. Mineral and heavy metal status as related to a mortality event and poor recruitment in a moose population in Alaska. J. Wildl. Dis. 37:509-522.

Peterson, R.L.  1955.  North American Moose. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 280pp.

Scanlon, P.F., K.I. Morris, A.G. Clark, N. Fimreite, and S. Lierhagen. 1986. Cadmium in moose tissues: comparison of data from Maine, U.S.A. and from Telemark, Norway. Alces 22:303-311.

Schemnitz, S.D. 1977.  Soectrographic analysis of mineral elements in deer and moose hair from Maine.  Research in the Life Sciences 24:1-11.

Sivertsen, T., H.L. Daae, A. Godal, and G. Sand. 1995. Ruminant uptake of nickel and other elements from industrial air pollution in the Norwegian-Russian border area. Environ. Pollut. 90:75-81.

Stewart, R.R., Flynn, A. 1978. Mineral element levels in saskatchewan Moose hair. North American Moose Conference.  Proceedings.  14: 141-156.

Treble, R.G. and T.S. Thompson. 1998. Trace metals in moose (Alces alces) liver. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 60:531-537.

Vikoren, T. and S. Gudbrand. 1998. Fluoride exposure in cervids inhabiting areas adjacent to aluminum smelters in Norway. II. Fluorosis. J. Wildl. Diseases 32:181-189.