Saturday, August 29, 2020

On the search for the elusive moose

Wednesday morning I rolled out of bed a little before 5 a.m. to meet up with Explorer intern Francesca Krempa to see if we could catch a glimpse of a moose in the early dawn hours.

Francesca is working on a story about the health and size of the moose population, and in these pandemic times, she had been unable to find a biologist or guide to go out into the field on a moose survey.

So we decided to scout out some moose habitat and try our luck at seeing one along Goldsmith Road in the town of Franklin, a spot where people had reported sightings in the past. Krempa had heard from a guide that he had seen one there on a hunting trip, and an angler had told me a couple years ago about sightings on the nearby North Branch of the Saranac River. We knew we’d have to get lucky and likely wouldn’t see one, but figured it would be worth a shot.

With the temperatures in the 40s and fog lifting off the Saranac River, we drove up Route 3 from Saranac Lake for about 25 minutes, before hanging a left onto Goldsmith Road. From there, we drove another couple of miles and parked near a clearing, where I had seen what appeared to be moose tracks in the sand a couple of days prior.

We walked along a wildlife trail to the river and watched as the fog lifted off the water. There were no moose, but the view was scenic. After a few minutes, we headed back to our vehicles and drove down the bumpy dirt road, stopping occasionally at various sites to get photos of the wetlands, river and vistas, on our way toward Lake Kushaqua and Rainbow Lake.

At one point, we stopped at powerlines, where I had previously gone looking for moose with Ben Tabor, a wildlife biologist who had worked on numerous moose projects in the northern Adirondacks before becoming an ECO and moving from the area. That day, Tabor and I had gone out and tried to track down a radio collared moose. We got close but it sensed us and moved on before we were able to see it.

Past searches

Another time, about 15 years ago, Tabor and I joined former wildlife biologist Ed Reed on a trip into the woods near Blue Mountain Lake. At the time, we were trying to locate the only moose in the state with a radio collar. However, hopes weren’t high to find the moose that day because it hadn’t moved on the radar in the days before we went looking for it, and indeed, when we found the young bull on that cold winter day, it was dead.

About that time, wildlife biologists were expecting to see a major spike in the Adirondack moose population, partly because there were increasing numbers of moose-vehicle accidents that occurred at least one fall. But that population spike never did seem to come and the moose population estimate has continued to stay in the hundreds, compared to states like Maine, where the moose numbers have been in the tens of thousands.

Although the moose population hasn’t spiked, the number of reported sightings has been more public in recent years because of social media and the internet. Moose sightings have been reported near Long Lake, Meacham Lake and other places around the Adirondacks. And I’ve been lucky enough to see a few. I photographed one near the Saranac River last summer, and then later saw one in the field across from Donnelly’s Corners in Harrietstown while driving back from a hike at the Paul Smith’s College VIC. About a decade ago, I even came across one while hiking the trail to Loon Lake Mountain. There was also a sighting of a bull moose along Route 30 outside Tupper Lake that drew a lot of people, including myself.

So seeing a moose isn’t out of the question. But the population is still small enough that you have to be really lucky to find one. This day, as we drove along Goldsmith Road on the way to Lake Kushaqua, we didn’t have any such fortune. But it was still good to get out early in the morning and check out the scenery in the dawn light.

Photos by Mike Lynch/Adirondack Explorer

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Mike’s weekly Backcountry Journal email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues.

Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine.

From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake.

Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at [email protected]


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19 Responses

  1. Nora says:

    I have lived in the beautiful Adirondacks for the last 20 years, I always knew that there was moose here but figured where I lived the chance of seeing you was rare, well until last year, came up my road and out he comes, I slammed on my brakes as he did his , he looked at me as I at him and then he turned around and went back in the direction of where he came from .

    I was startled and amazed at the same time as where I live you wouldn’t think they would be there , so one never knows when you will see a moose , you may be surprised and startled as I was.

    • Anita Dingman says:

      A few years ago we drove across the USA towing a camping trailer and staying at campgrounds. At one campground they said there were moose around if we hiked into the woods. We stayed there for several days and never saw one. The last day, as we were driving out of the campground, there was a moose next to the entrance.

  2. Moose are in trouble all along the Canadian border from Maine to western Minnesota, principally because of the winter tick, whose numbers may be increasing through Climate Change, in a way the black legged tick, the carrier of Lyme disease, is able to live further north at higher elevations. I used to spend a fair amount of time along “Moose Alley” which stretches along the Maine- New Hampshire border from the Canadian border through Pittsburgh New Hampshire, until further visits proved unproductive. I’ve seen three moose in the Adirondacks in 20 years. The best place to see moose near the Adirondacks is Algonquin Park, about three hundred miles northwest of Lake Placid, and west of Ottawa, if the Canadians ever open the border again. Be aware that the winter tick has been ravaging the moose there, and you often see “ghost moose”, moose who have scratched their coats off in frustration over the itchiness. Other fruitful areas for having a better shot at seeing moose in the northeast are New Brunswick, Gaspe, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Northern Nova Scotia. https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2014/05/steve-hall-be-grateful-youre-not-a-moose.html#more-44792

    • AG says:

      So how do the wolves interact with the Moose in Algonquin..??? I would think the wolves would quickly dispatch moose that are being sucked dry by ticks..? No?

  3. Boreas says:

    I am glad Adirondack moose have proven as elusive as the true wilderness they seek.

    • toofargone says:

      Try Blue Ridge Mountain from Hoffman Notch Brook. You’ll surely find the elusive Adirondack moose as well as the abundant wilderness that is hardly elusive. What are you smoking anyway?

  4. Dianalyn Martin says:

    Just saw a moose about 3 weeks ago on Rt 26 as we were heading to Goldsmith

  5. Carla Ewell says:

    On July 29th, this year, while camping on Lewey Lake, we witnessed a moose swimming across Indian Lake! We have been camping in the ADK’S for 22 years and this was our first moose sighting!

  6. Keith R Cromwell says:

    My brother and I call this a wild moose chase

  7. Steve B says:

    Not sure how accurate, but I read at some point that one reason for fewer moose in the Daks is the vegetation is not as tasty, as it were, as compared to Maine, NH, VT where there is more logging. They prefer young saplings, which are more prevalent in logged areas, vs. the Adirondacks whose state owned lands hasn’t been logged in 150 years or do, thus a more mature forest and less to eat

    • Boreas says:

      And hopefully less attractive to winter ticks as well!

    • Steve B. says:

      And I meant to add, never seen moose in the Adirondacks. Have seen many in Newfoundland and many years ago on the trails near Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park in Maine. That encounter was WAY too close, a cow, 2 babies and a bull, during the fall rut.

  8. Keith Silliman says:

    Several years ago, I took the kids for a iconic at the Saranac River PUA, off Goldsmith. We were ever vigilant for signs of moose. Driving back to LoonLake, on Goldsmith Road, we came across a huge Bull Moose. Sitting in the middle of the road. We stopped and watched him. One of the kids said “why is he sitting in the middle of the road?” I replied, because he can. After about 20 minutes, he stood, stretched, and ambled off, into the woods, and into the River. It was surreal.

    Keith Silliman
    Loon Lake
    ADKWhaler.wordpress.com

  9. Ed Burke says:

    Checked my trail cams today in Saratoga County and had three moose including two bulls. Didn’t include the cow in this tweet as it was almost identical to the one I posted about three weeks ago. https://twitter.com/EdBurkeToga/status/1300188694754795522?s=20

  10. Claude Fleming says:

    I saw one just below panther mountain it jumped on the hood of a car crushed the hood and caved the windshield to the steering wheel people were ok called 911 for them counters tow truck came

  11. I’ve been searching for one in the wild for 30 years (my interest sparked when I was a reporter at the Press-Republican) and went on a search with DEC wildlife biologist Al Hicks, seeking Big Richard. My track record remains a perfect zero despite many attempts, tours and trips to NH, Vt., Me. and the Adirondacks! http://aboutmenshow.com/no-moose-no-peace/

    • Boreas says:

      I have seen many more in the Rockies than I have seen in the NE. I would assume mostly because of less vegetation and better visibility. I recall years ago when driving through one remote mountain pass in Montana being treated to the sight of a bachelor herd of about 8 non-breeding bulls with 2 Golden Eagles soaring overhead!

  12. Andy Puttbach says:

    I work at a summer camp near the border of Day and Corinth. Since the 1990s we have seen signs of moose running through the property. One was even seen by staff in the end of June this year.

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