While walking in a Finnish forest you might suddenly be surprised to see or hear a horse-sized animal crashing off through the vegetation. Finland’s vast forests are home to around 100,000 moose (also known in Europe as elks).
A large bull moose can weigh as much as 700 kilogrammes. These kings of the forest are an imposing sight with their huge crowns of palmate antlers, but they are generally timid outside the autumn rutting season. Considering their huge size moose are surprisingly seldom seen. They usually shelter in dense forest during the daytime, feeding on forest plants. They are easiest to spot when they occasionally venture out of the trees to graze on marshes, meadows and fields in the twilight hours around dawn and dusk.
Wild & Free
To be truly free, all you need is the untouched wilderness and a touch of madness in your blood.
Moose mothers give birth to one or two calves in May or June. These calves were born at Moose Manor, a moose-themed attraction near Jämsä in Central Finland.
Moose can be seen almost anywhere in Finland, including parks and other green areas in towns and cities. They are quite unmistakeable, since they are much larger than the semi-domesticated reindeer that roam Northern Finland or the white-tailed deer and roe deer that live in the woodlands of Central and Southern Finland. Big game seekers hoping for sure sightings can head for Ähtäri Zoo in Central Finland or Ranua Wildlife Park in Lapland.
Though moose out in the forest tend to be shy of people, the residents of Moose Manor are easily approachable and will pose shamelessly for photos.
Male moose grow new antlers each summer and shed them after the autumn rutting season.
Laila (left) and the bull moose Jorma (right) are two of the tame residents who greet visitors to Moose Manor near Jämsä in Central Finland. Four tame and friendly moose can be admired and petted by visitors in their fenced off woodland paddocks behind a picturesque old farmstead.
Captive moose can get used to people, but their sensitive and stubborn nature makes it impossible to fully domesticate them or use them as working animals. Moose Manor also has a restaurant where moose meat (from other sources!) is served in various tasty dishes.
Moose are surprisingly good swimmers. They sometimes feed on aquatic plants, or they may take a dip in a lake just to cool off. Their huge heads rising above the waves can make them look like some kind of strange lake monster.
Warning signs along many Finnish roads alert drivers have to watch out for moose in places where they may try to cross the road. Many stretches of major highways are lined with high moose fences to prevent accidents, which can be fateful for road-users as well as the unfortunate animals.
Each autumn between 35,000 and 50,000 elk are shot by licensed hunters around Finland. Hunting quotas are set to correspond approximately to the numbers of calves born in May and June. Moose numbers have to be limited by hunting because wolves and their other natural wild predators are scarce in Finland today. Moose-hunting is a popular pursuit in rural Finland, where there are 310,000 registered hunters.
Hunting clubs form the social hubs of many villages. Most of the resulting moose meat is shared by hunters and their families and friends, but some finds its way to supermarket shelves or the kitchens of restaurants specialising in traditional Finnish dishes.
When tame, moose are incredibly friendly and love to make friends with people.
Santa Claus’s long experience working with reindeer has helped him to befriend the moose at Ranua Wildlife Park in Lapland.