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“When’s the best time to see a moose?” That’s probably the hardest question to answer any time of the year. The best time, unfortunately, is when the moose doesn’t know you’re there. And that’s almost impossible.
See, moose have these huge, hairy ears that pick up the slightest noise. They hear everything. Ask any hunter and you’ll get stories about a twig breaking, chewing gum snapping, a metal grommet clinking or even the infamous muffled sneeze. And yes, in that brief second, that moose is gone.
I’m one lucky Vermonter. I’ve seen “our” moose five times between 2006 and 2010. The first time was Spring 2006 along route 7 in the Mt. Tabor area of the Green Mountain National Forest. Brian and I were driving along and he said “Did you see the moose?” Of course, I had missed it, being the driver and having to concentrate on the road, so we turned around and went back and there he was, a young bull moose, wallowing in the water, happily munching down all sorts of plants. We pulled into the parking area, got out, and leaned on the car just watching him eat. Within about 20 minutes the parking lot was filled up and the moose, instead of walking away, turned around and faced all of us in the parking lot. This was when I first decided that “our” moose was a camera hound and had a sense of humor. He stayed there eating, watching the people, “posing” for pictures, for a good 45 minutes. When he left, he just sauntered deeper into the woods, taking his time, never even looking back to see if he was followed.
We felt very lucky to have seen him. Other people were commenting that they had never seen a live moose before. One fellow had lived in Vermont all his 75 years and this was his first moose sighting. He had taken lots of photos and was going home to get them up on his Facebook page and send to his family. I had seen tracks before, but never seen a moose in the wild. Little did I know that the moose and I would have an interesting relationship in the future.
Apparently, the Silas Griffith Inn is right on the Moose Highway from Danby Mountain to the Green Mountain National Forest. I would find moose tracks in muddy areas, moose scat on the trails, and occasionally strands of hair caught in the berries after the moose was helping himself to the newly ripened blackberries. But one morning in May, around 4:30 AM, I was awakened by the dogs. All three of them were barking at the window. Then they stopped and I heard this unearthly noise and looked out the window. There, in the field beyond the gazebo, was the moose, bellowing. He stopped, and the dogs started barking again. He shook his head, and wandered off. Eventually the dogs calmed down, but I wasn’t able to fall back asleep. I got up and started getting ready for the day.
All our guests wanted to know what that “awful noise” was in the middle of the night when they came down to breakfast. I explained, and we went up to the field, where I showed them the tracks and fresh scat. Everybody was excited, and some guests even set their alarms so they could see the moose. But he didn’t bellow the next morning, and no one saw him in the moonless pre-dawn light, although he did visit, as evidenced by his fresh tracks.
A year later I saw him in my garden eating the baby peas. I was not amused as I watched him munch down one whole section after another. But I wasn’t going to argue – he was taller than I was and I could plant more peas. That’s actually the only time I ever caught him in the garden, although he does eat from the apple trees all the time. He’s a very picky eater and will sample apples, taking only a bite to see if he likes it, leaving the apple if it doesn’t meet his standards, and finishing it if he does. I’ve found a lot of half eaten apples still hanging on the trees with huge, moose toothmarks.
Over the next few years he only woke me up twice more. I think the dogs got used to him and just didn’t bother to bark anymore. But he bellowed, and I looked out and saw him, a beautiful moose, king of the area, telling the world that this was his land and we were just temporary interlopers. And when you’re 6 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh over 1,500 lbs, well, I’m not going to argue.
So, c’mon up to Vermont, where moose tracks abound. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few allowed to see our camera happy moose. But even if you never see him, just remember, he’s watching your every move.
photo: Barbara Meiers