Moose or elk?
Introduced to Colorado 24 years ago, moose are thriving in many parts of the state, and elk hunters should know the difference between these two ungulates. A hunter who mistakes a bull moose for a bull elk can be fined more than $11,000.
This is a mistake that should not be made, because the animals are vastly different in size, color, horn shape and habits. The Shiras moose is the smallest of four sub-species and much smaller than an Alaska moose, but a mature bull still weighs 1,200 pounds, about twice as much as the average bull elk. Moose are dark brown and appear almost black. Elk are light brown — a bull can be almost golden — with a pale yellow rump.
A moose has a very large, long nose and a “bell” under the throat, compared with the relatively narrow snout of an elk. A mature bull also has broad, flat antlers with paddles, unlike the pointed antlers of an elk. But the antlers on some young bull moose have not flattened out yet, so hunters need to look at the entire animal before pulling the trigger.
The largest member of the deer family, moose have adapted to a variety of habitats. They favor abundant willows along streams and ponds, but “ridge runners” also forage in areas of lodgepole pine, oakbrush, aspen, spruce fir and even sagebrush — in other words, where elk can be found.
They act very differently, however, when approached by humans. Typically, moose will not flee like elk will at the sight of a hunter.
Despite these readily apparent differences, every hunting season brings a number of illegal moose kills. Circumstances vary from mistaken identity by hunters to blatant poaching. And the common denominator in most accidental kills is the absence of optical aids, such as binoculars or spotting scope, to properly identify the species. n
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