The Incredible Ways Moose Have Evolved To Survive The Winter

For animals to survive the winter months, they have to adapt to the harsher conditions. That either means hibernating until spring arrives or developing traits and behaviors that keep the issues at bay. While many animals opt for the former, the moose is one that’s succeeded in the latter. Thanks to evolution, they’re able to thrive when winter comes around.

Keeping themselves warm

For an animal to survive in winter, they need to withstand freezing temperatures. Luckily, moose have that in the form of their fur. The combination of long, hollow hairs and a dense undercoat ensures they never struggle when things get cold. The hairs work by trapping air, meaning they’re better able to retain heat. What’s more, they’re dark in color, so absorbing heat also isn’t an issue.

Conserving their energy

A moose’s diet isn’t that hard to find in their natural habitat. After all, they live off things like twigs, grass, and leaves (commonly referred to as browse.) Of course, this vegetation isn’t as easy to source in cold, snowy weather as it is in other seasons. That’s why these animals eat a lot more of it in the fall. They essentially stock up on nutrients to keep them going through to spring. It works because moose conserve their energy in winter, hardly moving to ensure they don’t expend more than necessary. They’re able to primarily rely on their fat stores for several months rather than eating every day.

Being energy efficient

Speaking of energy, a moose is incredibly energy efficient. Not only does their fur help them to keep warm, but so does their body. That’s because the amount of them that’s exposed to cold air is much less than what isn’t (i.e., their internal organs.) Other ways that moose are energy efficient relate to their antlers and snout. With the former, moose don’t grow them in the winter, instead waiting until spring where there are more energy sources. As for the latter, their nasal passage is designed to heat air when it’s inhaled so that it’s warm once it reaches the lungs.

Finding a shelter

Considering moose have so many ways to retain heat, it’s perhaps not so surprising that the animals sometimes get too warm in winter. To prevent themselves from overheating, moose rely on a shelter covered by forest with plenty of browse lower down. This helps to keep them cool while also offering nearby food sources, so the animals don’t have to go far to eat. Unfortunately, a shelter isn’t always sufficient enough to support a moose throughout the winter. However, their long legs and strong muscles mean that moving through the snow isn’t really an issue, even if it’s three feet deep.

Without these traits and behaviors, moose wouldn’t be able to thrive in winter the way they do now. Evolution has certainly been kind to them, ensuring that they’re able to support themselves in cold and uninviting conditions. For your safety, though, it’s probably still best you don’t try to approach one, whatever time of year it is.