Aww-some sight — Moose calves herald start of summer

Photos by Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose nurses her twin newborn calves in a field along Robinson Loop Road in Sterling on Tuesday. Moose calves tend to be born in about a four-week period from mid-May to early June. They can stand soon after being born, and begin to nurse almost immediately. Mother’s milk is their main sustenance for about the first month of life.

Photos by Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose nurses her twin newborn calves in a field along Robinson Loop Road in Sterling on Tuesday. Moose calves tend to be born in about a four-week period from mid-May to early June. They can stand soon after being born, and begin to nurse almost immediately. Mother’s milk is their main sustenance for about the first month of life.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Along with the return of salmon to area rivers and the parade of motor homes down the Sterling Highway, the appearance of newborn moose calves is the third sure harbinger of the arrival of the summer season on the Kenai Peninsula. Calves started showing up last week, as they tend to do in a four-week period around mid-May to early June, though some give birth later if they bred later.

An average moose calf weighs about 40 pounds when born, and twins typically weigh a few pounds less than single cows. Calves can stand and take tottering steps on their wobbly legs a few hours after birth. But unlike caribou calves, which must be able to move soon after birth to keep moose calves 4up with their roaming herd, moose cows and calves tend to stay fairly stationary after calving, which is easier for cows to protect their young.

Calves begin nursing soon, almost immediately, after birth. They can start eating vegetation within a few days, but mom’s milk remains their main source of sustenance for about their first month.

Moose calves have a tough go of it, as they are a prime source of prey for bears, wolves and other predators. And humans can be a cause of stress, and even death, this time of year. There are a few things people can do to make help make sure they aren’t an inadvertent contributing cause of calf mortality.

  • Keep your distance. Few things rank higher on the cute meter than newborn animals, and moose calves are a particularly endearing sight — with ears, eyes and legs out of proportion to their downy bodies. But view them from a respectable distance. Getting too close could cause calves and cows stress, or could even cause them to flee — potentially across a road or away from the relative safety of the calving spot the cow has chosen. Also, if cows and calves are already moving, don’t block their path, with yourself or your vehicle.
  • Don’t assume a calf is lost or orphaned just because you see it alone. The cow might be unseen nearby, and could reunite with its calf even after a seemingly long absence of a day or more. Interfering with a calf might only interfere with its mother rejoining it. Even if a calf is alone, the harsh reality of nature is that calves have their place in the wild food chain. Calf survivability is important for the health of the moose population, but reality is that the majority will not survive the summer.
  • Be safe driving. That’s a good rule any time of year, and it remains true in calving season. Always drive with lights on and be extra vigilant at twilight and in the evening. Watch not only the road but the sides of the road, as moose can be difficult to spot when standing camouflaged against vegetation, and can choose to cross a road with no apparent reason or warning.
  • Restrain your pets. Newborn moose calves aren’t able to defend themselves and are particularly susceptible to injury and death from other animals. Moose cows are particularly protective of their new young and will be more aggressive than usual this time of year, meaning even a merely curious dog could get stomped if it gets too close.
  • Reduce attractants. Moose are meant to eat natural browse — the young trees that are sprouting as we speak. But they sample garbage, pet food, garden growth and other items inadvertently provided by humanity. Don’t let them. Non-natural foods can be difficult for moose to digest, causing sickness and even death. All the rules for reducing bear attractants around a home hold true for moose, as well.
About these ads

1 Comment

Filed under moose, wildlife

One response to “Aww-some sight — Moose calves herald start of summer

  1. Les Palmer

    Good “evergreen,” Jenny. Some readers will read this for the first time, and others will be reminded. Not much fun to write, but it’s got to be said, over and over.

    Including the source for your “dos and don’ts” will give it more credibility. You might’ve mentioned where readers could get more information. Fish and Game’s “Living in Harmony with Moose,” available in brochure and on their Web site, is a good one.

    We’re still a long way from getting along with our wildlife, but people like you are helping to win the war against ignorance. Keep up the good fight. Soldier on!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s