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19 December 2016

How They Keep Warm: Moose (Plus One Unfortunate Mishap)

Img source: Daily Mail
A moose was found trapped in the Shediac River in Canada on Saturday, 10 December. Weighing in at a hefty 500 pounds (240 kg), the female moose was attempting to cross the frozen river, making it 25 to 30 feet before the ice gave way. A homeowner called the fire department at around 8 a.m. to report the stuck moose.

Julien Boudreau, a firefighter with the Shediac Fire Department in Shediac, New Brunswick said, “There was a few holes between it and the other side of the shore, so it looked as if she had tried to cross and went through a few times and was able to get part ways across, but probably got tired by three-quarters of the way across and that’s where we found her.”

Img source: Daily Mail
Before attempting the rescue, Boudreau said the firefighters assessed the situation to determine whether going onto the ice was safe. Coaching from the DNR provided the rescuers with the right information to safely interact with the moose and to minimise stress. Rescuers tackled the dilemma armed with axes, ropes, and life jackets. Firefighter Jos LeBlanc said to Daily Mail that, at first, the moose appeared agitated by the approaching rescuers, but calmed down once they began to work.

Aided by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the RCMP, the Shediac Fire Department was able to free the moose from the iced river. How did they manage to free her? By breaking up the ice along the path from the moose to the shore so that, once cleared, she would be able to stand in the river. Once the rescuers cleared the ice, the moose stood in the water for about 20 minutes before they guided her to the safety of the shore. Soon after making it ashore, the moose made her way into the woods.  The entire affair took 90 minutes.

How They Keep Warm

A northern species, moose are well-equipped to withstand the frigid climate of winter. Commonly dwelling in areas all across the northern hemisphere, from China to North America, the large-bodied mammals are built for the cold. Weighing in at about 3 times the weight of an average person, a moose’s large body size reduces heat loss because of a low surface-area-to-volume ratio.

With long legs, an adult moose can stand comfortably in snow of up to 36 inches. However, snow crust, a hard upper layer of ice on top of snow, will cause a moose to seek firmer ground and overhead shelter. While long legs allow the moose to traverse deep snow, moose prefer to spend wintertime in a rather sheltered area, near a mixed-wood or coniferous forest. A sheltered base not only ensures that the moose does not have to deal with crust or deep snow, it protects it from heat.

The outer hair coat of a moose is long and hollow and the undercoat is dense and soft; the combination offers ultimate protection from the cold. Fully insulated by this double coat, adult moose will pant in temperatures of 23° F (-5°C). On warm winter days, moose will repose to the shade of the forest to keep cool. In desperate times, a moose will lay flat on the snow in order to cool down. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).