Female moose and calf standing and browsing in the snow. Public domain?USFWS.

How Can Moose Stand in Snow and Their Feet Not Freeze?

Female moose and calf standing and browsing in the snow. Public domain?USFWS.
Female moose and calf standing and browsing in the snow. Public domain?USFWS.

Moose stand on skinny little legs in drifts of cold white snow. Why don’t their skinny little legs freeze?

Of course I had to research this burning question. I mean my legs aren’t much different in size than a moose’s. Well, the moose’ legs are longer but still. If I stood in knee deep snow without socks or shoes on, my legs would get frost bitten. What is different between my legs and a moose’s?

Moose like humans have fat stored in their legs. But, the fat in a moose’s legs is highly unsaturated. Unsaturated fat stays liquid longer at room temperature that saturated fats. This is the different between canola oil and bacon fat sitting on your kitchen counter. The canola oil stays liquid but the bacon fat begins to solidify.

Stored saturated fats will stiffen or freeze in cold temperatures. Bacon fat (and butter) will also freeze solid in cold temperatures. Unsaturated fats like canola oil get slushy in cold temperatures, but I don’t think they freeze solid as fast or like saturated fats.

Gray wolf stand in snow. Public domain/USFWS.
Gray wolf stand in snow. Public domain/USFWS.

The feet of huskies and wolves also have concentrations of unsaturated fats. In cattle the unsaturated fat in their legs is called neat feet oil and is highly unsaturated.

Scientist state that it is the unsaturated fats which enable moose to stand in deep cold snow and their legs not freeze.

I don’t know if the fat in human legs is unsaturated or saturated. I doubt that human leg fat is unsaturated. It is rather disturbing to think about.

Source: Winter: An Ecological Handbook, 107.

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