Moose – New Yorks 0ther Big Game Animal

New York sportsmen have a century-old tradition of hunting two resident big game mammals of New York State… the white-tailed deer and the black bear. Interestingly another North American big game mammal has been slowly appearing with increased regularity in the Empire State over the last several decades.

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The moose (Alces alces) is common throughout many parts of the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts and were first observed in New York around 1980. Since the first appearance of these visitors over three decades ago, their numbers and distribution have increased. Currently it is estimated that there are about 800 moose in the northern and eastern sections of the Empire State. Since the early 1990’s,  a number of them have wandered down into the Hudson Valley, in some cases as far south as Westchester County.

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An adult bull moose can weigh as much as 1500 pounds and stand six feet tall. Cows can weigh over 1,000 pounds. This large body size reduces their ability to tolerate high temperatures and both sexes can suffer from heat stress during the summer months. Accordingly during the summer, they will spend considerable time near and in water to avoid hot air temperatures and biting insects. As result of their poor ability to handle summer temperatures, moose are typically not found in the lower latitudes of North America. As moose populations gradually increased over time in New England, moose also began slowly expanding in warmer areas in lower latitudes that has not been their traditional habitat.

Moose are the largest members of the family Cervidae found in North America. A bull moose’s antlers are  flattened (palmate) unlike white-tail deer.  Similar to deer, their antlers are shed every winter and new ones are grown each summer. A mature bull’s antlers can have a spread as wide as 5 feet from tip to tip. Both sexes possess a “bell”, or hair covered appendage under their chin. While some speculate that their bell is a sign of dominance and virulence among bulls, it is also commonly believed the bell is an appendage that facilitates draining of water from their head and neck area when eating submerged vegetation. Moose also typically have a hump on their upper backs which is formed by the spines of their vertebrae that are  encased in muscle that grows around the vertebra along the back of their neck.

Moose3Cows can breed at 1 ½ years of age, although the majority do not breed until they are 2 ½ years old. Their gestation period is about 235 days and older cows often have several offspring.

One of the limiting factors of moose distribution is the incidence of the parasitic brain worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenius). The first stage of the life cycle of this parasite is typically hosted by deer, and then passed out to the environment via deer fecal pellets. It is subsequently ingested again by moose in the course of feeding on natural vegetation. This parasite will ultimately effect the central nervous system of moose and results in abnormal behavior that includes lethargy, circling, disorientation and ultimately leading to paralysis and death.

Moose numbers in NY have slowly increased over the last two decades, and most of their distribution is still found in the Adirondacks and areas adjacent to the Capitol region. Moose have with increasing regularity wandered through the Hudson Valley during the spring shuffle for home ranges. Moose have  been documented as far south as Westchester County.

One of the major concerns about the presence of moose in NYS is the incidence of moose/motor vehicle collisons. Because moose have long legs, if they are involved in a collision with a auto, the impact usually sends them through the windshield. Human fatalities have occurred in number of jurisdictions. Similar to the current roadkill deer possession statute, if you should unfortunately  hit and kill a moose, you are entitled to retain the carcass for your own use.

Moose 4We have experienced numerous moose wandering through the Hudson Valley/Catskill region in the last 15 years. Several have been captured and relocated back to more suitable habitat, and an equal number of them have been killed by motor vehicles. Moose movements peak in early fall with approach of the breeding season and bull moose looking for love can appear in all the wrong places. Several moose typically turn up in the Hudson Valley and Taconic regions during late summer. Recently a particularly wayward bull managed to move all the way down to northeastern Pennsylvania and mysteriously turned up missing soon after it’s departure from NYS. It is unknown whatever became of that animal.

Can we ever expect to see a moose hunting season in NYS ? It is certainly in the realm of possibility at some point in the future, given the frequency with which free ranging moose continue to appear in this state. In all likelihood a moose hunting opportunity would be administered through a lottery as is the case the New England states.

If you should spot a moose in the Hudson Valley in an urban or otherwise developed area notify the DEC Wildlife Office in New Paltz. If a wandering moose should wind up in a critical situation,  a quick and timely intervention can prevent a public spectacle and allow for an acceptable resolution without endangering life and property.

For further  information about moose in New York refer to the moose page on DEC’s website at :



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