“Where’s my moose?!?” an otherwise calm, German woman once shouted into the forest on a pilgrimage I was guiding. We’ve been looking for the moose for days, but found nothing but old droppings. It keeps it’s distance and hides during the day, when most pilgrims are out walking. The moose is the one animal I receive most questions about. And It’s no wonder. This magnificent animal is known today as the King of the Forest. In Scandinavian languages the moose is called ‘elg’.
I’ve spoken to my old friend and wildlife guide Bjørn Henrik Stavdal Johansen at the Visitor Center for Predators at Flå about some fun facts about the moose. This is what he came up with, and I’m most amused!
The moose has not always been the king of the forest. Earlier, there was a completely different animal that was referred to as regent. Namely the bear (‘bjørn’ in Norwegian).
The moose’s antlers have no other function than to tell ladies and rivals who are the strongest. The most pronounced bulls get the biggest antlers – and hence the greatest chance at the ladies.
Even though the moose is not a socially established animal, they will follow each other during winter when they migrate between pasture areas. This is to avoid plowing their own trails through the deep snow.
The moose was, after all, almost extinct i Norway after modern rifles became common. The moose in Norway today has mostly returned from the deep forests of Sweden.
The moose was regarded as huldra’s (very dangerous and beautiful folklore wood nympf) cattle, and was therefore called the hulderku. One had to be on the right side of the hulder and her kindred to succeed in hunting.
The moose has been such an important resource that it has got its own rune! Algir!
Everyone knows the huge systems of hunting pits for catching reindeer in the Norwegian mountains, but did you know that the moose was hunted to the same extent? In the forests of Norway there are large, coherent rows of huge hunting pits for catching the king of the forest.
The moose is a picky giant. He prefers to enjoy aspen and goat willow. If you taste their leaves, you will know that they are the leaves with the least bitter substances in it!
The moose has front teeth only in the lower jaw. They are used to rake the bark of young trees.
The moose is very fond of blueberry bushes – but it does not care about the berries. The moose would rather have the green heather!
The moose has a nasal and peeping voice.
When Europeans came to North America, they saw some big deer that they had heard of from Scandinavia and called them wrongly ‘elk’. When they really found moose, they had to call it something else. And the moose was given it’s name. In England, the moose is still called elk.
Thank you, Bjørn!
If you still want to read more about the moose, here’s an article on Wikipedia.
And the German lady? She found her moose in a field at Vikhammer, on the last day of her pilgrimage 🙂