Alces alces gigas is the subspecies of moose found in Alaska. Gigas means “giant,” and the Alaska moose is the largest of its species. They are found from the Stikine River in Southeast to the Colville River on the Arctic Slope. The Alaska subspecies is also found in the Yukon Territory as well as northwest British Columbia.
An adult male moose stands six to seven feet tall at the shoulder, is nine feet long from head to rump, and can weigh as much as 1,600 pounds (females can reach 1,300 pounds). Moose have long legs, a huge muscular hump on its back just beyond the head, big ears, and no tail. Its long snout is decorated underneath with a flap of skin called the “dewlap,” a structure used to release scent during the rut.
As with all members of the deer family, male moose grow antlers each year beginning in April or May. Moose antlers match the rest of the animal in terms of size, reaching up to seven feet across and weighing 70 pounds. During a four-month period of growth, antlers can gain as much as a half a pound a day. In the fall, the soft tissue calcifies and hardens, and the “velvet” which covers the antlers falls off. The antlers are shed sometime between November and January.
Moose habitat varies with the season. In the summer, moose are found in open vegetated areas. They spend much of their time along streams and lakes where food is abundant. In the winter, moose are more likely to be found in the forest where there is some protection from snowfall. Their territory can be anywhere from a few miles to 60 miles, depending upon the proximity of vegetation and protective areas.