Elk vs Moose – The 7 Key Differences To Help You Tell The Two Apart

Elk vs Moose – The 7 Key Differences To Help You Tell The Two Apart

Elk vs Moose – 7 Ways To Tell Them Apart

For experienced hunters, it may seem silly to think an elk could be misidentified as a moose or vice versa.  But for new hunters or someone who didn’t grow up hunting and looking at big game, it can be easy to do.  For someone without that experience, elk and moose have a  lot of similarities.  Both elk and moose belong to the deer family that goes by the scientific name Cervidae.  Both are very large animals and males have antlers. Even though they have similarities, they also have differences.  So keep reading to find out more about the differences in an elk vs moose. 

Studies suggest there are about 1 million moose in North America and 1.2 million across Eurasia. Sweden has the highest population density for moose. In contrast, there are about 1 million elk in the US and Canada.

If you are a new hunter, this article will give you a clear understanding to avoid any confusion in identifying an elk and a moose.

Elk vs Moose Coat Color‘s

cow elk
Yearling Cow Elk. Notice the lighter brown coat.
cow moose
Yearling Bull Moose. Notice the dark brown coat

Moose coats range from a light brown to a dark, almost chocolate brown.  They also have a ‘beard’ that hangs under their chin.  It’s not actually a beard, it’s a dewlap, which is essentially just a piece of fur covered skin that has scent on it.  Bull or male moose, have a much larger beard than a cow or female moose.  

Elk coats or their fur comes in a few different shades of colors depending on if it’s a male or female and the time of year.  Cow or female elk, have light brown colored coats.  Bull or male elk have a tanish color coat.  Elk also have a shaggier fur around their necks.  It isn’t really long but longer than the rest of their coat and typically darker in color than the fur on the rest of their bodies.

Difference In Size

Both elk and moose are big animals.  But an average moose is bigger than an average elk.   

Moose are the largest member of the deer family.  Moose can stand anywhere from 5 to 7 feet tall at the shoulder.  This doesn’t include their head or a bull moose’s antlers.  They have extremely long legs which helps them maneuver through the deep snow.  A bull moose can weigh up to 1500 pounds while a cow can weigh up to 800 pounds.   

Elk are medium-size family members of the deer family in comparison to moose.  Elk typically stand 4 to 5 feet tall at the shoulder.  A bull elk has antlers which usually makes them appear quite a bit taller.  Bull elk can weigh in at 1200 pounds while cow elk can weigh in at 700. 

 Due to their weight difference and the length of their legs, elk are much more agile than moose.  But the legs of a moose aren’t a disadvantage.  They allow moose to run up to 35 miles per hour. 


Elk are social animals.  They tend to stay in groups which are called herds.  During the fall, when female elk are in heat (this is called the ‘rut’), you will typically find a group of cows together with one bull.  After the rut is over and the bulls are done competing for cows and mating opportunities, They usually group up with a few other bull elk to spend the rest of the winter and spring.  Cows and smaller yearling bull elk remain together in a group until next year’s rut.

Moose are a little different from elk.  They are more solitary animals.  They are happy alone and do not form herds.  You usually don’t find moose together unless it is a cow moose and her calf.  Calves usually stay with their mother for around a year and a half before their mother sends them off on their own.

Moose and elk also have different opinions when it comes to humans.  Typically, elk will run as soon as they see, hear or smell a human.  Moose on the other hand, don’t seem to be as bothered by humans.

Nose and Snout

Moose and elk have different noses or snouts.  Moose have a more rounded nose at the end of their snout and their snout is more a cylindrical shape.  Kinda like a cylindrical tube extending from their head.  Elk have more of a pointy nose and more of a cone shaped snout.

Elk vs Moose Antlers

bull elk
Bull Elk. Notice the long tall antlers. Each tine of the antler branches off the main tine.
bull moose
Bull Moose. Notice the palm/paddle shape of the antler.

Even though bull moose and bull elk have antlers which they shed around the same time every year, they have different characteristics. 

Moose antlers are shaped like an open palm with fingers coming off them.  Their antlers are often referred to as moose paddles because of their shape.  The palmed portion of the antler would make a great paddle for a boat.  Antler coming off of the paddle will typically form into points.  Moose antlers can be large.  Typically they are 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide.

Elk antlers don’t typically have any type of palm formation.  They are long and consist of one ‘tine’ coming off the elk’s head with other ‘tines’ coming off of that one and forming points.   Elk antlers can also be large.  They can stand 5 feet tall from the ground or off the elks head.

Elk vs Moose Sounds

Even though cow elk and cow moose sound pretty similar, the same can’t be said for bull elk and bull moose.  Bull elk make what is called a bugle.  It is a high pitch noise that can almost sound like screaming.  A bull elk on the other hand makes a much deeper raspier sound.  A bugle can last 5 to 10 seconds where a bull moose sounds only last a few seconds.

Natural Habitat

Elk are native to North American and East Asia peninsulas. Like most animals, they had a much wider population distribution in the past. As of now, Elk has adapted well wherever they found a way, including in New Zealand.  Elk mostly prefer steep mountains and large valleys.

Moose live in the northern U.S. and Canada, from Maine to Alaska and stretching far south as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  They live in cold climates, and their large and insulating fur makes life easier for them to live in cold temperatures.  Moose tend to stay near water.  Rivers, streams, muddy flats and lakes with plenty of willows are all places you can find moose.

Elk and Moose Fun Facts

Elk Facts 

  • Elk can run up to 40mph.
  • The Shawnee (native american tribe) name for elk is wapiti, which means “white rump.”
  • When a bull elk is trying to attract a mate, it sometimes digs a hole and urinates in it and then rolls around in it. 
  • Elk can jump up to 8 feet high vertically.

Moose Facts

  • Capable of swimming up to 10 miles without stopping. 
  • The name “moose” comes from the Native American word “Moswa,” which translates to “twig eater.”
  • Moose have to eat up to 70 pounds of food a day to maintain their weight. 
  • One moose antler can weigh up to 70 pounds. 

Elk vs Moose Final Word

Well there you have it.  We went over some of the basic differences between an elk vs a moose.  If you are applying to an elk or moose hunt, make sure you brush up on the differences between the two before you go out and hunt.  As you saw in the pictures above, the main difference between cow elk and a cow moose is the color of their coats.  Also, the main difference between a bull elk and a bull moose is their antlers. 

If you are headed out on a hunt or even if you are just looking for the difference between these two amazing animals, we hope this helped.  

Happy Hunting!


Hey I'm Karson. I've been hunting since I was 8 and shed hunting even before that. If you have any questions for me, fill out a form on the contact page, send me an email at karson@huntinggearinsiders.com or leave a comment on the below. Thanks