I find it useful to compare domestic species to similar wild species. Many of my friends and family hear me half-jokingly state that the Maine state animal, the moose, is a “big forest goat.” In many ways, it is. Like goats, moose are browsers, not grazers like many cow and buffalo species. Moose and goats also share similar limb anatomy and belong to the order Artiodactyla along with other species like giraffes, various antelopes, and even pigs and hippopotami. Artiodactyla is a fancy way of saying “even-toed” ungulate. Meaning, moose walk on their 3rd and 4th toes just like goats, cows, pigs, etc.
At this time of year, I marvel that animals such as moose can exist in such harsh Northern climates. I recently had a discussion with my family about how moose stay warm. While many believe that moose primarily store fat to stay warm, like a bear for example, it is actually primarily their heat-retention capabilities that allow them to stay warm. Moose and many deer species, including caribou, have hollow hair shafts that contain air that is kept warm by the body. It is like having a bubble of warm air around the entire body, kept in place by the numerous hairs that cover a moose.
The moose also uses a very popular strategy to stay warm during the winter months. It rests. A lot. It eats when it can. Then it rests, again. It tries to travel as little as possible. This is a simple game of “energy in, energy out” and in this instance, the latter half of the ratio is greatly weighted with a large energy output needed to stay warm. The last thing the moose needs is to move around and waste more energy. The former half of the ratio is at a disadvantage because much of the feed sources of moose are under the frozen surface of water or buried in the snow.
Next time you are outside and feel the winter chill creep into your bones, just think. There might be a moose neighbor close by feeling the same thing.