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.
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.