Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lost Brook Dispatches: Moose, Part Twose

(This letter to my father-in-law is a follow-on to my column “You Moose Be Kidding”

Dear Howard:

I’m thinking of you, stuck in your hospital bed, red-legged and bored to death.  I sympathize, but I am very happy that you are where you are, remembering as I do my son Zach’s bout with cellulitis in the Blue Ridge Wilderness some years ago.   Cellulitis is a very serious thing and I’m glad you are out of danger.

Still, boredom is its own danger too, potentially injurious to your most excellent mental make-up.  So I thought I’d entertain you with some wonderful news.  Of course, this may not be news you want to hear, as it forces upon you a terrible choice: either accept the demise of your bothersome claim there are no moose in the Adirondacks (because you haven’t seen one); or instead accuse your own beautiful daughter, your precious flesh and blood, of being a bald-faced liar. For indeed, glory has been visited upon us!  Oh hail the great hand of fate that has delivered unto us a primary source to quiet you once and for all: last Friday we saw a moose!

The circumstances were as innocent as could be possible, not in the least crafted to product such a happy outcome.  We were merely driving to work as Amy does every morning.  We had not even left our beloved town of Keene, having just passed Stewarts, when in the field to our right we saw a large deer lope towards the road.  Startled by our car, it bolted sideways and back, after which it proceeded to energetically circle in confusion and obvious fear.  This was odd behavior for an adult deer to be sure, and I slowed down with an abundance of caution, wondering which way it might lunge next.

As I regarded the discombobulated creature a thrill went through me.  This was no deer!  The hopelessly overlong and ungainly legs first set me off my initial assumption.  Then I noticed it was a good deal larger than a deer.  When I regarded its face and perceived that it was all snout and ears, the identification was complete.  “Look dear!” I shouted at Amy.  “That’s a moose!”  Amy is used to me screaming things at her – I’m an itinerant screamer who has been known to yell the word “moose” repeatedly just for the pleasure of it, sometimes for minutes on end.  But this shout was different: an announcement portending significance.   Amy stared intently at our subject; I saw recognition flood her face.  “Wow, it’s really a moose!” she cried.  So there it was: whether you want to accept it or not, Howard, we had taken a vehicular run at a first-class, juvenile moose, probably born last spring.

What a lovely creature this Moose was!  It exuded youth in its movement – indeed I thought at any moment it might be leap over the adjacent cedar tree, so filled was it with springiness.  Its coat was a beautiful, burnished brown, with just a tinge of rust red.  Its ears were very busy, each rotating in filigreed little arcs.  One ear moved quite independently of the other, an effect which was entirely adorable.  I’m told by authorities that moose can move their eyes independently as well.  Seeing that ability in action might perhaps be less adorable, possibly even off-putting; but really, how marvelous is it?  I can think of many times at the card table with you and your gentle wife when that ability would have come in quite handy.

Seeing a young moose had me interested in learning more about moose-making.  I gleaned the following paragraph from the DEC web site and share it here since I’m sure you’d want to know too:

Moose breed from mid-September through mid-October.  During the breeding season, bull moose will create wallows by pawing out depressions in the mud, and then urinating in them.  Bulls and cows will then roll in the wallows. While typically only mature bulls five years or older breed, cows begin breeding at two to three years of age. After an eight-month gestation period, cows give birth to one or two calves in May or early June.  Twins are common when cows are healthy and well fed. Calves are reddish brown and weigh 25-35 pounds. By fall they weigh 300-400 pounds. Newborn calves can stand up the first day, and swim within a couple of weeks. They are weaned at about six months, but remain with their mother for one year until she drives them off shortly before her next calf is born.

I don’t know about the pawing out depressions part, but perhaps when I achieve your venerable age I’ll be more accepting of the juxtaposition of bladders and wallowing.  (note to DEC: can one really “paw” with a hoof?)

So heal well, Howard, and digest this news: Moose are alive and well in the Adirondacks.  Lest you suggest we misidentified or hallucinated, know that said moose and Mom as well were ID’d by others the same day, heading down towards Keene Central, presumably for a little schooling.

If it saddens you to have finally had your comeuppance, I suppose you can take some smug pleasure in my admission that my excitement at seeing a moose in my beloved Adirondacks is surpassed by my excitement at the prospect of finally being able to prevail over you and your anti-moose rhetoric (you should run for President with that attitude).  You can be happy for your daughter too: Amy had a pure moose experience, unsullied by my imperative to win.  Now she can go to next year’s Great Adirondack Moose Festival  with a proper sense of fulfillment: she belongs there, she’s in the club now.

You’re not invited.

Photo: Moose at Helldiver Pond (also in the Adirondacks, Howard).  Photo by John Warren.

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Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

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10 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    Great news!

  2. Steve Hall says:

    Fantastic! You don’t see them often, but they are here. For you travelers, the two most reliable places to see moose within a day’s drive, are “Moose Alley”, a 30 mile stretch along the Maine-NH border, north of Pittsburg, NH, about 200 miles east of Lake Placid, or the best place in North America for Moose viewing, Algonquin Park, about 300 miles northwest (about 150 miles west of Ottawa, point your GPS for the East Gate near Whitney, Ontario along Rte 60), where you may also see eastern Canadian wolves, one of the progenitors (along with western coyote), of our hybridized “coywolves” (coydogs, brush wolves, etc.).

  3. Bruce says:


    While I was accessing this wonderful story, I came across your old article about the backcountry first aid kit. That was a great piece. You mentioned epinephrine. Along that same line, I recommend that folks who have epi-pens not to forget them, along with at least one dose of any daily prescription medications they may need in the event of an unplanned overnight.

    In the 80’s I spent a week canoeing, camping, and fishing in the region between Hoel Pond and Long Pond and based on a list in a well-known hiking book, I talked to my doctor and he provided me with some prescription items which might save my life or at least fix me up well enough to get back out to civilization, including a couple things for the eyes. I never had to use any of it, thank. goodness.

  4. Ginny Alfano says:

    Vindication is a beautiful thing, Pete! Hopefully now, your father-in-law will believe you – especially since your wife (his daughter) also saw the Moose!

    I feel vindicated as well since you forwarded my letter from your previous article to him and he “immediately pooh-poohed it.” As you said, that was very disrespectful of him. Perhaps he would like to apologize to me? Well, at the very least, he certainly owes you an apology :).

    Thanks for another very entertaining article. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  5. Jim S. says:

    I bet that your father in law will want photographic evidence. I am not optimoosetic he will believe you.

  6. BRFVolpe says:

    You’re not alone, Howard. My wife laments being among the few in Stillwater who aren’t in the club.

  7. Howard says:

    I heartily congratulate you on your moose sighting, but I find it important to remind you of the crux of the issue…that there are no moose indigenous to the great state of New York. Never mind that we drove every back road in the park while my loving wife endured every bad pun you could deliver to her captive, tortured ears, promising at every low area that a Moose sighting was imminent. Knowing full well that you were stealing our loving first-born, ripping our hearts out and trying to convince us of the joys of relocating from Wisconsin, we looked at every turn to see…no moose.

    I may be a “doubting Howard” in many ways, but I still maintain that the moose are mostly from Vermont, hired by the APC to increase the attractiveness of an area that needs no help in being a desirable place to live. I would posit to you that the moose you saw wore an ear tag from Vermont, and that he was just starting his New York weekend shift. Until I see my own moose with no “Feel The Bern” lanyard, I will continue to dismiss your assertions and beliefs regarding the native ungulate-wallowing element of the place you hold our daughter in ransom.

  8. Amy Nelson says:

    There has been no ransom, people; though leaving family was immensely hard, I needed to be here to be part of or at least witness to a new age in the park – an increased appreciation for its innate healing powers in a scary time of global warming. AS to the moose…The Adirondack Park is a fabulous place to live, but it can be tough, too, for many creatures. Things are pretty closed in and rough-going in a lot of directions (in a lot of ways) but we’ve got thing going on, here. I’m pretty sure, that moose, was in training – a new breed – a tougher, smarter, better-smelling moose – tired of being overshadowed by all those other New Hampshire and Vermont Moose, auditioning to be our new poster moose and coach for all moose who need road safety courses. That moose was likely the same moose my friend saw near Keene school with the older female moose, and I think you’re going to have to get used to it. We have moose. I’ve named that young one “coach.” The times, they are-a-changin’. …

    • Howard says:

      Interestingly, the name moose originally came from the Hawaian “Mo’ose” which is translated “How will I ever get a lei on this thing?”

  9. Curt Austin says:

    I took up motorcycling two years ago, and gained a very different perspective to animals on the road. I’m quitting this year, while ahead, having had encounters with turkeys, a weasel, a horse, a pig, a cow, humanoids and, of course, a deer or two. I was thinking I would be guaranteed to see a moose, but no.