Saturday, October 2, 2010

Alces alces alces (European moose)

The train we rode to Trondeim last weekend shook violently and I wondered what had happened. The conductor said we hit a moose, cutting it in half (ugh). There are now an estimated 120,000 moose in Norway (known as elg), about 30 times as many as 100 years ago. When you consider how small Norway is relative to the US, it is an astounding number. The estimated population densities 3 moose / km sq, whereas in Alaska and British Columbia the density is 0.3 -1.2 / km sq. In Scandinavia moose numbers have increased dramatically due to conservation efforts and lack of natural predators. However natural predators, wolves and bear, are increasing in number in Norway, causing conflicts with both hunters and sheep ranchers (similar to North America).
We live in Hedmark County, which has the highest moose concentration in Norway, and issued 8,500 hunting permits for moose this year. Wildlife management authorities hope that 8,000 moose are taken in this county alone, as moose are overgrazing their habitat. Hunting is very popular in the area, and many people hunt with Elkhounds (Elk or Elg is the name for moose in all of Europe, but a confused settler called Cervus canadensis an Elk when arriving in N. America- as it was as large (almost) as a moose)

The largest members of the deer family (Cervidae), Moose are found in northern forested areas across Eurasia,
from Norway and Poland to eastern Russia, and across North America from Alaska and British Columbia to Labrador and Nova Scotia. The same species, Alces alces, occurs on both continents. This pattern of distribution
is called circumboreal. Adult stand nearly 2 m tall at the shoulder and weigh between 350 - 700 kg. They have long legs that enable them to easily walk through deep snow and fallen timber. This also makes them very dangerous to motorist, as when hit the large bulk of their body lands directly on the windshield. The Swedes developed a moose test for cars (ability to evade a large object on the road at high speed and not roll over) as well as crash test against moose "dummies". Train collisions are frequent, and Jernbaneverket (Norwegian Rail authority) is spending an estimated 80 million kroner to reduce moose collisions (fencing, clearing vegetation, and feeding stations far from the rail lines during the winter).

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