Hunters often encounter trouble figuring out the difference between elk and moose. Despite belonging to the same deer family ‘Cervidae’, both animals oppose each other in various ways. For instance, the moose is the largest member of Cervidae with quite a long nose, which is its most distinguishable feature. Whereas elks are mid-sized and possess a narrow snout, making their face entirely non-identical to that of a moose.
The confusing difference between elk and moose has left numerous people, especially beginner hunters perplexed. If you are unaware of the unalike characteristics of these animals, you will end up hunting down the wrong one. Using various studies, we have compiled a detailed guide on what is the difference between an elk and a moose.
To know more about the factors responsible for making these two game animals dissimilar from each other, read along.
Is An Elk A Moose? – Difference Between Elk And Moose
Anyone can fall for the skepticism when it comes to the elk moose difference. But, let’s answer one common question i.e., is a moose an elk or vice versa? No, it is not. If you are looking for some major difference between elk and moose, make sure to understand the following factors carefully.
Taxonomic Differences & Naming
Many people complicate the taxonomic differences only because they fail to understand them. So, let’s put it simply for you, elk and moose are members of the Deer family known as ‘Cervidae’. However, Cervidae is further divided into two subfamilies i.e., Cervinae (Old World Deer) and Capreolinae (New World Deer).
Elks belong to the Cervinae subfamily and moose are categorized into the Capreoline subfamily. The most prominent dissimilarities between the members of both subfamilies are their ankle and bone structure.
Speaking of the naming, many animals from the deer family have more than one name and the same is the case with these two. Elks are referred to as Wapitis and moose are also known as Alces.
The physical difference between elk and moose is what makes them look un-identical to each other. Eyesight and hearing ability are two of the most important factors in threat and risk detection. Most deer hunters know what colors can deer see. Similarly, knowing difference in key senses along with physical appearance of elk and moose are beneficial.
What Does Elk Look Like?
Featuring a narrow and small snout, wapitis can easily be differentiated with this. They also lack dewlaps (flap of skin hanging from below the neck).
Do you wonder how big and tall are elk? Well, the size of an elk is not as much as that of a moose. A mature male elk known as a bull weighs between 320 to 330 kgs and 1.5m in height. While a female wapiti or cow weighs between 220 to 240 kgs and is 1.3m tall.
As newborns, the calves are light golden-brown or pale yellow with spots. The color then changes to brownish-gray by the end of summer and as winter arrives, elks turn dark brown. Elks have buff-colored rumps which are their characteristic feature.
- Antlers & Hooves
Only male elk and alces grow antlers whereas females and calves don’t. Wapitis have pointed and spindle-shaped antlers that are pretty much similar to those of a deer.
Since elks are travelers and cruise large distances, they have blunted tips of hooves. This feature is also a common identifier for the difference between elk and moose.
What Does A Moose Look Like?
Wind, bulbous and long nose similar to a horse is what makes the alces look distinct from elks. Their most recognizable feature is the hanging hairy skin under the chin known as ‘bell’.
If we talk about moose size comparison with an elk, it is double the size of an elk bull. That said, an alces male can weigh between 380 to a mighty 700 kgs. However, some of its females are even heavier than mature male wapitis, weighing between 200 to 490 kgs. The male moose’s height measures up to 2.3m whereas, the females could be as tall as 2m.
Typically alces have a dark brown skin color which sometimes appears as black. Even the skin color of a baby moose is dark brown in color.
- Antlers & Hooves
Bulls have large, broad, and flat antlers having pointed edges. However, these antlers become flat as the moose ages. Therefore, at a younger age, many hunters confuse moose with elk due to their smaller antlers. Female moose don’t grow antlers.
Hunters can find wapitis living in places like foothills. During the winter season, these animals migrate to lower areas such as meadows, rocky areas, and rivers. Whereas, the natural territory for alces is around the areas with plenty of aquatic vegetation. Unlike elks, they stay in the same habitat even when the seasons change.
Elks are found nearly in several parts of the world including the various US states, New Mexico, and Canada. They live in the wooded wilderness of the Eastern US. Whereas, are found in the rocky mountainous regions in Yellowstone National Park and Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge in the Western US. You can look for elks in bulk population in Idaho, Utah, Montana, Washington, Nevada, California, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona.
Moose, on the other hand, live in the Northern forests of North America, Russia, and Europe. For the US states, alces reside in Colorado, Michigan, Alaska, New York, Nevada, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Utah, Oregon, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.
Both animals are herbivores hence, feed solely upon plants. Wapitis are low grazers and munch on grasses. They also like eating barks, fruits, sprouts, and leaves from shrubs and trees.
Moose are browsers and consume various kinds of plants and fruits. These include leaves, twigs, fruits, sprouts, and barks. They also like eating flowering plants from dandelions as well as aquatic plants such as pondweed and lilies. Alces’ favorite plants are native willow, aspen, and balsam fir trees.
Living Behavior & Lifespan
Wapitis like to travel, eat and stay in herds. Contrarily, moose are solitary and prefer traveling, eating, and living alone.
Elks are likely to live for 10 to 13 years. However, alces live a little longer in comparison i.e., up to 15 to 25 years.
Moose vs Deer
Is moose a deer? No, deers are significantly smaller than moose and are found in more areas than alces. Moose possess flat and large antlers while deers have shorter spindle-shaped. However, both animals belong to the Cervidae family.
Elk vs Moose vs Caribou
Caribou is smaller among the three. Its male weighs around 160 to 180 kgs whereas, females are 80 to 120 kgs in weight. The difference between elks and moose is that wapitis have sharp and pointed antlers, whereas moose have broad and flat antlers. Whereas caribou have curved and tall antlers.
Elks have a small snout, moose have a long nose with a hanging bell, and caribous are distinguished with a white coat on their neck. Elk and caribou like traveling, eating, and staying in herds. However, the difference between caribou and moose is that the alces would choose to spend their life alone.
You can clear your mind about the difference between elk and moose by carefully understanding the aforementioned factors. Both the animals are unique in various ways such as physical appearance, behaviors, eating habits, and more.
In early hunting days, I did some investment and bought some of the best long range rangefinders. This helped me spot and map out my way to these big game animals. You just need to learn about these factors and distinguishing between the two wouldn’t be a challenge anymore. After buying rangefinder and learning how to change rangefinder from meters to yards, I am still using these glassing equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Moose is bigger than an elk and the largest animal from its Capreolinae subfamily. Its male weighs twice as much as an elk i.e. up to 700 kgs.
Elk antlers can grow big as 4 feet tall and 9 to 10 kgs in weight. However, only healthy wapitis tend to grow this size of antlers.
Unfortunately, elks have predators near their habitat. These include gray wolves, mountain lions, and bears. Calves can become a target of animals like coyotes and bobcats.
Knowing what moose taste like before you hunt them down is important. The meat of alces is fat-free or extremely low in fat. So, can you eat a moose meat? Simple answer: Yes, you can. When eaten roasted, this meat can provide you with an abundance of Vitamin B.
Despite looking calm, elks can be quite dangerous as they ambush. These animals even become a threat to their young ones who are protected by the mothers aggressively.