01 June 2005

Finding the Moose

When we first came to Maine, I was determined to see a moose. I had never seen a moose in the wild and I was fascinated with the lumbering animals which, Bill Bryson says, "look like a cow drawn by a three-year-old."

I began asking around about the best place to spot a moose. Rangeley, everyone said. You can't go to Rangeley and not see a moose. So we planned a long weekend at Rangeley Lake. We stayed in a rustic cabin just a stone's throw from the water and all our extended family joined us there. We saw skunks, deer, foxes, loons, and even a bald eagle, but not even a trace of moose.

The next year I volunteered at a local radio station in Freeport. One day when I arrived, several people were talking about the moose they'd seen just down the road. I jumped back in my car, drove to the spot, but there was no moose. My husband and children went out for a drive in the mountains one day while I was working, and when they returned, they announced that they had seen three moose. Three! I was so envious and a bit skeptical.

We had been here about three years when I finally saw my first moose - and it was dead. It was on the side of I-95 and had tragically been hit by a car. I imagine the collision was tragic for the driver of the car, as well, as moose collisions are often deadly. It was terribly sad to see such a majestic creature lying by the roadside, lifeless and limp. This prompted a rather sick joke in our family: they claimed that the only moose I would ever see was a dead moose; and furthermore, if I did have the fortune to see a live moose, it was a misfortune for the moose because my seeing it would cause it to die very soon.

I continued to go on about my life with only a dead moose sighting to my name, Friends and family came to Maine and were treated to many moose sightings - always when I wasn't around - which was perhaps fortunate for the moose.

Then one year I hit the jackpot. Our family decided to do a day-long drive through the mountains near Moosehead Lake. We found an old logging road that cut through from Greenville to Millinocket and came out near Mount Katahdin. We knew it would take hours to navigate in our little Volkswagen, but it was spring and we needed to get out of the house after the long winter.

After leaving Greenville, we started slowly down the rutted, bumpy road, bouncing along, unknowingly causing our Volkswagen permanent damage. After a couple of miles, we saw it - a very young moose standing curiously in the center of the gravel road. It watched us for a moment and then trotted casually into the thick woods. "Oh no," said my husband, "It's probably going off to die." But before the words had faded into the mountain quiet, we saw another moose standing next to the road a mile or so from the first one. This one was older, but just as curious and stand-off-ish.

The jokes about dead moose disappeared when we saw our third moose; another young one that simply galloped awkwardly across the road right in front of our car. It was as if all the moose in Maine had been waiting for me to drive down that road on that spring day so they could give me the thrill of my life.

In the end, we saw eleven moose that day, all on that road from Greenville to Millinocket. The last one was something out of a postcard. Just below Mount Katahdin, we pulled over and saw a large male moose with giant antlers standing in a lake. He lowered his head under water every so often to munch on the soft vegetation and eyed us disinterestedly.

There really is nothing quite like seeing a moose in the wild, but beware of getting too close, as they are unpredictable and can be aggressive. If you come to Maine to see a moose, don't despair if you are unsuccessful; it happens to the best of us. But I would recommend finding that logging road between Greenville and Millinocket!

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

1 comment:

bonnie cousins said...

I am getting a real kick out of reading your stories...they remind me so much of my visits in Maine. I too, longed to see the Maine Moose...so, one day we drove hours from the coast up to Moosehead lake, where we were sure to see one. Of course, we went to one of the "moose hot spots" we found in the tour books. It was one of those secluded backwoods ponds, on the outskirts of the lake. We were also having car trouble, and after sitting with eyes peeled for any movement for over an hour..we were very concerned that if we happened to have car trouble-AAA would never be able to find us way back in the woods. So, we reluctantly left our hot spot and headed back to town. There on the road, as we are driving back, was our moose! A young moose, standing calm as can be, drinking on the side of the road. He was even nice enough to stand there for a bit and let us "tourists" take pictures of him.
As for the rest-you are not the only one with the "dead moose" problem. On our second trip to Maine, we took a drive clear up the coast to Lubec, checking out lighthouses, but also because if we were going to see moose, that would be one of our best places to look. Well, we did get to see one on our way home...he was strapped to the back of a trailer, and hunters pride and joy. (of course, as tourists, we had to stop and take some photos). The hubby and I just returned from our annual fall trip to Maine, this time staying in Lubec, and figuring we would finally get a chance to see them in the wild, either near Lubec, or surely over at Campobello, but no...the only moose I saw this trip, was again strapped to the top of a hunters truck as he left the hardware store! So, don't feel bad, you are not alone in the "curse of the dead moose". Here is hoping that both of us get to view many more of the majestic, if clumsy looking creatures, alive and standing tall!