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Temporal range: Pleistocene–0.011
ROM - Stag-moose.jpg
Skeleton in Royal Ontario Museum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Genus: Cervalces
Scott, 1885
Species: C. scotti
Binomial name
Cervalces scotti

The stag-moose (Cervalces scotti) was a large moose, with a muzzle more closely resembling that of a typical deer,[1] of North America during the Pleistocene epoch.[2] It is the only known North American member of the genus Cervalces.


Stag-moose size chart

It was slightly larger than the moose, with an elk-like head, long legs, and complex, palmate antlers. Cervalces scotti reached 2.5 m (8.2 ft) in height and a weight of 708.5 kg (1,562 lb).[3] The stag-moose resided in North America during an era with other Megafaunas such as the woolly mammoth, ground sloth, long horn bison, and saber toothed cat.[4] The species went extinct approximately 11,500 years ago, toward the end of the most recent ice age, as part of a mass extinction of large North American mammals.[5][6]

The first evidence of the stag-moose found in modern times was discovered at Big Bone Lick, Kentucky by William Clark, circa 1805. A more complete skeleton was found in 1885 by William Barryman Scott in New Jersey.[2] Mummified remains have also been found.[7]


Skull, Smithsonian Museum

The ancestor of the stag-moose is believed to have evolved in the Eurasian continent. The stag-moose or Cervalces scotti is believed to be related to the Cervalces latifrons, another similar species that went extinct around the same time as the stag-moose.[4] The stag-moose is thought to have fulfilled a similar niche to a modern-day moose. The stag-moose frequented wetlands, as well as woodlands and forests [8] and inhabited by creatures such as the woodland musk-ox, and the giant beaver.[9] in a range from southern Canada to Arkansas and from Iowa to New Jersey. Just like its modern-day counterpart, the stag moose is a herbivore with a diet of vegetation and plants. The stag moose and the modern day moose shared common predators. Some possible main predators of the stag moose consisted of the grey wolf, the dire wolf, and the brown bear. Often, the brown bear would hunt the calves and/or weakened adult stag-moose rather than going after the healthy adults. Another possible predator of the stag-moose is the American lion which had a preference in deer like animals. Near the conclusion of the Pleistocene period, humans began hunting the Cervalces scotti as a source of meat.[10] As the glaciers retreated, moose (which had crossed the Bering land bridge from Asia)[11] may have populated its habitat and caused its extinction by competition.[2] Although there is no paleontological evidence that it was associated with humans,[12] other theories for its extinction have been proposed. Notably, there is speculation that hunting by newly arrived humans caused the extinction of the stag-moose and other large mammals.[13] Additionally, some have proposed a sudden extinction by disease, brought by small mammals in association with humans.[6] The oldest known fossil of the stag-moose was found in the bed of the Skunk River in Iowa, with the specimen dating back approximately 30,000 years ago. The area in which the fossil was found and the date implies that the stag-moose lived before a massive ice sheet covered the area in which it inhabited, which could also be a possible cause of its extinction.[14] Since the stag-moose resides in a woodland habitat, climate change and loss of natural pastures also could have played a role in its extinction.[15]

Stag-moose, although extinct, had many adaptations that helped them to thrive and survive. The stag-moose grew its antlers and had them drop off during the winter time. The antlers allowed the stag-moose to appear much larger and more intimidating than it really was. The antlers could grow to about six feet in length. Defense was not the only use for the antlers, however, the antlers were used in male on male fighting while competing for a mate. It is a possibility that the antlers were developed to assist the stag-moose while looking for food in trees. The hooves developed by the stag-moose were very sharp and were used to break up ice and snow that were in the way of possible food on the ground. They were also very helpful in traveling over the extreme conditions in which the stag-moose lived. Stag-moose had quite a few behavior adaptations as well. The creatures were known for acting very carefully when sensing danger. This included not making any noises or sudden movements. Although very large, these stag-moose oftentimes chose not to fight with its predators. In addition, the stag-moose were very quick to protect their young in the face of danger. This allowed most calves to grow into adults without much trouble.[16] Remains of the stag-moose found in modern-day Ohio have suggested that stag-moose and Homo sapiens could have possibly interacted. Fossils of both the stag-moose and other large extinct mammals in the area suggest that the stag-moose may have been a frequent target of early human hunters.[17]


Moose-like restoration by Robert Bruce Horsfall, 1912

The stag-moose, like several other members of its genus, probably lived in marshes and bogs, as well as spruce-taiga floral communities. There were also surroundings ranging from tundra–mixed coniferous forests to deciduous woodlands. These sedges and willows may have not have been suitable food products, but they provide an imagery of the ecology of the elk-moose. The change in flora and fauna due to complete deglaciation probably also affected the living conditions of the stag-moose in states like Iowa and Wisconsin, where the stag-moose was found at more than 20 sites.[9] None of these sites, however, has any evidence that the stag-moose interacted with humans, furthering evidence that the extinction of the stag-moose is not comparable to that of large herbivores that were greatly affected by hunting. The stag moose reproduced more often than megaherbivores, and so the hypothesis is that the stag-moose's disappearance is linked to the emergence of the "true moose" (Alces alces), instead.[18] [19][20] Another reason for extinction could be the competitions of several herbivorous artiodactyls, like the Bison in the new grassland ecosystem which replaced the spruce forest environment. [21]


  1. ^ "AMNH Bestiary." AMNH Bestiary. American Museum of Natural History, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014
  2. ^ a b c "Stag Moose (Cervalces scotti)". The Academy of Natural Sciences. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  3. ^ (in Spanish)
  4. ^ a b "Cervalces Scotti." Maxilla & Mandible. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <>.
  5. ^ "Stag-moose". Illinois State Museum. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  6. ^ a b Stevens, William K. (April 29, 1997). "Disease Is New Suspect in Ancient Extinctions". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  7. ^ Guthrie, R.D. (1990). Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe: The Story of Blue Babe. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226311234. Retrieved 2015-06-12. 
  8. ^, Darren Pepper. "Cervalces". Retrieved 2015-06-12. 
  9. ^ a b Bower, Bruce. "America's Talk: The Great Divide." Science News 137.23 (1990): 360-362. JSTOR. Web
  10. ^ "Cervalces." Prehistoric Wildlife. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <>.
  11. ^ George A. Feldhamer; Joseph A. Chapman; Bruce Carlyle Thompson (1982). "Moose". Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 931. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  12. ^ "Stag-Moose". Bestiary. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  13. ^ Sharon Levy (2006). "Mammoth Mystery". Natural Resources Defense Council. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  14. ^ "Oldest known stag-moose fossil resides in Iowa". Retrieved 2015-06-12. 
  15. ^ Strauss, Bob. "Stag Moose (Cervalces Scotti)". About. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 October 2014.
  16. ^ "designeranimals - Cervalces scotti". Retrieved 2015-06-12. 
  17. ^ Mayhood, Kevin. "Solving a 10,000-year-old mystery - Researchers study clues to figure out what killed giant ice age moose." Columbus Dispatch, The (OH) 16 Sep. 2008, Home Final, News - Science: 04B. NewsBank. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  18. ^ Levy, Sharon. "Clashing with Titans." BioScience 56.4 (2006): 292. Web.
  19. ^ McDonald, H. Gregory. "New Records of the Elk-moose Cervalces scotti from Ohio". American Midland Naturalist 122.2 (1989): 349-356. JSTOR. Web.
  20. ^ O'Gorman, Jodie A. and Lovis, William A. "Before Removal: An Archaeological Perspective on the Southern Lake Michigan Basin". Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 31.1: 24. Web
  21. ^ Long, Charles A. and Yahnke, Christopher J. "End of Pleistocene: elk-moose (Cervalces) and caribou (Rangifer) in Wisconsin." Journal of Mammalogy 92.5 (2011): 1127–1133. Web.

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