Thursday, September 28, 2006

Animal Encounters: Moose in the Adirondacks

Relatively fewer hunters and natural predators combined with the amazing adaptability of some species has led to a recent boom in the populations of New York’s largest animals – moose, bear, deer, coyotes and bobcats. In the past few years a 400 pound bear was shot in the City of Albany’s Washington Park after it wandered for a couple hours around the downtown area. In 1997, a moose wandered Albany’s inner city neighborhood of Arbor Hill before being relocated.

Moose (Alces alces, also called elk in Europe) were all but wiped out in the Adirondack Mountains in the 1860s. The Adirondack guide Alvah Dunning is one of several who claimed to have killed the last moose in the region, but the significance of his role escaped him. “What caused the moose to all leave in one season right after the Civil War, is a mystery I never could solve” Dunning ruminated, “They were thick thirty years ago. I killed eight big ones in five days. My father, myself, and two others killed 100 moose one winter.”

The moose began returning in the 1980s from Vermont and New Hampshire. The increasing numbers of encounters just may make this the Year of the moose in the Adirondacks, so here are some relevant facts gleaned from recent Moose reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and wikipedia):

  • Moose are the largest member of the deer family (Cervidae). The name moose is believed to come from the Algonquin word mus or mooz, meanin”twig eater.”
  • Moose have been known to swim for up to two hours and as far as twelve miles.
  • It’s believed there are at least 200 to 400 moose now living in the Adirondack region and that the population is close to the point of self-sustainability. The DEC quit monitoring moose actively in 1997.
  • Areas with the highest populations of Moose include western Saratoga County and central Hamilton County including the the area around Lake Desolation which has one of the state’s heaviest concentrations of moose.
  • The average full grown moose weighs about 900 pounds; bulls can weigh as much as 1200 pounds.
  • The most dangerous time for moose encounters is during the approximetely six week long rut which is going on now. The rut is when males are traveling, often across roads, in search of mates.
  • In recent years about 3 or 4 a year have been killed in road accidents, however in the past four weeks:
    • Sept. 7 – a tractor-trailer hit a young moose on the Northway near Chazy
    • Sept. 13 – a moose was hit by an Amtrak train in Putnam on the east side of Lake George
    • Sept. 20 – a woman in a Saturn killed a bull moose in North Elba
    • Sept. 21 – a driver hit a moose on Route 55 near Bloomingdale
    • Sept. 21 – one man is killed when three cars hit the same moose on I-93 in Waterford, VT
    • Sept. 23 – a moose wandering Watertown is moved to the Five Ponds Wilderness

UPDATE 9/28/06: NCPR notes that the Wildlife Conservation Society has an ongoing Adirondack Moose Survey as a part of their Adirondack Living Landscapes Program:

One of the goals of the Adirondack Living Landscapes Program currently is to better understand the population distribution and trends of the region’s moose population. Moose were extirpated from the Adirondack landscape and absent for more than a century, but have returned to the area within the last few decades. The Adirondack Atlas includes maps of moose sightings reported to the DEC between 1980 and 1997, which indicates a clearly growing and spreading population.

To better understand the current status of the population and these trends, ACCP has partnered with the DEC to survey hunters in the Northern Zone about whether they have observed moose while hunting. We hope that, over time, this survey will provide a valuable source of information about moose population status and growth.

In addition, we gather moose sighting information from the public. You can help us better understand the Adirondack landscape by reporting a sighting of a moose or another species to us here.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

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