We call them moose but my European friends know them as elk. They’re widespread in the northern forests of North America and Europe. That’s a smallish cow and a year-old calf in the picture below. The cow is around 350-400 kg or so. Bulls are significantly larger; it’s not unusual to find them between 600-700 kg. Right now there are around 115,000 moose in Newfoundland, down from a high of about 150,000 in the mid-nineties. There are 4-5 of them living in the wooded area behind my house. There’s a cow and a bull and they mate each year, producing a calf. The calf stays with the cow until the next calf is born—some time around the spring of each year. One morning the cow and calf wandered down out of the woods (not uncommon at all) and spent some time by my house before eventually returning to the hill.
They are tasty :>) Many of my fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will proudly proclaim moose steak as their favourite food. Me—I’m partial to moose sausage when it’s done right. Moose/elk burgers are popular on both continents. The ones in the hill behind my house are safe from hunting, though. It’s within the city boundaries.
This post, though, is not about food. It’s more about physics.
Start with light and colour. Take a quick look again at the two moose above and note the dark brown colour. It blends well with the surroundings in the boreal forest. Despite the huge size, moose are pretty hard to see when you are in the woods, unless you are used to looking for them. Most people aren’t. Do you think you would be able to spot the one below against the background at dusk? After dark?
Let’s set up a situation. Suppose that you are rolling along the highway at 110 km/hr. It’s close to dusk and you are a bit tired. You just want to get home. Moose can move fast when they want to. The cow moose that was chewing away at the trees by the side of the road suddenly decides she wants to eat the branches on the other side so she bounds up on to the road in front of you. Your oncoming headlights briefly dazzle her so she stops to see what’s coming.
You are about 50 metres away when you see her so you lock up the brakes. By the time you hit her your speed is down to 100 km/hr.
Let’s get a quick bit of perspective.
The calf and cow are walking by my neighbor’s house (Hey Francene/Chopper did you see them?) Look at how their size compares with that of the car. Notice also that those spindly legs have placed the bulk of the animal right at eye level.
In an accident, here’s how it goes down.
The bumper breaks the legs of the moose then the bulk of the animal slides right across the hood and hits the windshield. It breaks clean through. The passengers then collide, unprotected with the bulk of the animal, at very slightly less than 100 km/hr. It’s like hitting a concrete wall. The weight of the animal then crushes all of the occupants.
The seatbelts and airbags don’t help. They keep you from flying around and striking things. This time the 500 kg bag of reinforced meat is coming at you.
At 100 km/hr it will be fatal.
There’s a part 2. I’ll post it tomorrow…