How I Caught a Peeping Moose On Camera
This is the only shot of a moose I’ve ever gotten. Admittedly, it’s sort of lame…so I had to
lie embellish the story a bit. This moose actually served no time and is free on his own personal recognizance. Just be wary, while hiking, if you should duck behind a tree to pee. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos like this one:
(I’m learning how to say, “Oh sh#t!” in a myriad of languages.)
I could post other videos of moose attacks but many are too violent for my taste and/or end up badly for the people (or moose) involved. We like to keep things positive here at The Caffeinated Day Tripper. Now, if you’re one of those folks who likes to watch When-Animals-Attack/Sharknado/ hunting-disaster type shows, feel free to search for more gruesome footage via our handy-dandy search bar in the sidebar there. We won’t judge you.
I’ve lived in New Hampshire for over twenty years and, in all that time, I’ve only encountered five moose. The first doesn’t really count, as I was actually on a highway in Maine, headed up for a weekend white-water rafting trip on the Kennebec. I’ve seen three in my very own yard (one, just a few months ago). And, finally, this fella, while hiking the Bald Mountain Trail in Hancock, NH. Why is this the only photo I’ve gotten? Because moose are sneaky SOB’s, that’s why. That last one, in my yard, must have practiced some kind of voodoo camera-breaking curse on me because BOTH of my cameras crapped out on me before I could snap his photo. I could swear I heard him snickering as he walked away.
But I digress…
The Bald Mountain Menace Moose
It started out like any other day of late-winter hiking. The hubby and I set off at the crack of dawn’s behind with our backpacks and camera. Bald Mountain is 2037 ft. The trail has an elevation gain of about 900 ft. This means that it is fairly easy to climb, if a tad steep at times; even great for hiking with kids. The four miles of trails get your heart pumping a bit but also allows lots of time for scenic photos and napping/daydreaming when you get to the top. The summit is truly bald. It has been suggested that repeated burning by Native Americans may have kept it cleared or that foraging moose may have kept the vegetation at bay. Either way, it makes for some stunning views.
The trail begins, and winds along, the 108 acre Willard Pond in The dePierrefeu-Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Antrim, NH (NH Mountain Hiking.com has great directions to the trail head). The lake-level views are spectacular, and no petroleum motors are allowed, so it’s wonderfully peaceful. Ducks, beaver, geese, loons and hooded mergansers take up residence in the waters. Osprey, turkey vultures, hawks and eagles soar above.
The sanctuary is 1700 acres of land, generously donated by Elsa Tudor dePierrefeu in 1967 in honor of the husband she lost in World War I. Its intent was also to provide “peace among all beings”. It is New Hampshire Audubon’s largest property. It is also part of a larger “supersanctuary” totalling over 10,000 acres of protected-use land. Bald Mountain and Goodhue Hill wrap around the pond, with trails to their summits passing by huge glacial boulders. These boulders were deposited by receding glaciers after the ice age, people. Incredible! Here’s a photo of The Caffeinated Hubby as a reference point showing just how immense these boulders are:
More boulders and ledges punctuate the way and the trails are well-marked and easy to follow. Snow-melt streams trickle over fallen white birch, giant fungus (as big as hubby’s hand!) cling to the pines and scat/tracks are a frequent reminder that white-tailed deer, fishers, bobcats, black bears, coyotes and, yes, moose call these trails home.
How did We Spot This Menacing Moose?
A slightly steep wooded area, shortly into the hike, allowed cover for our sneaky moose friend. The Caffeinated Hubby spotted him, peeping at us, from behind a tree. These guys are stealthy, especially when you consider that an adult male averages at about 1,000 pounds and can be 6 feet at the shoulder! It is the largest land-mammal in New Hampshire, with finely tuned senses of hearing and smell but terrible eyesight. They feed mostly on leaves, aquatic plants and bark, stripped from trees (The word, Moose, is Algonquin for “eater of twigs”), and bulls can grow forty-pound antlers every year, starting in March. These are typically shed by November. Their rutting, or mating, season begins in September and ends in October. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to be anywhere near a rutting moose. (And, if you don’t want to trust me, there are videos to look up…again I direct your attention to that handy-dandy search bar up there) In Autumn, males dig wallows with their hooves and then urinate in them. A lot. Bulls and cows will roll in this moose litter-box during breeding season. The Caffeinated Hubby and I have stumbled into one of these wallows once. It wasn’t pretty. Try to avoid doing so, at all cost.
*has post-traumatic moose litter-box stress disorder flashback*
Um, anyway…Calves are usually born in May or June. Mother moose, or cows, are fiercely protective of their babies. Trust me, again, when I say that you don’t want to be anywhere near a Mommy moose with her calf (or calves; twins are common). She will kill you.
A moose’s average lifespan is about eleven years. They are susceptible to a parasite known as brainworm. This parasitic infection results in stumbling, a slower response time, starvation, an oddly tilted head, going lame, weakness, blindness, walking in tight circles, loss of fear and/or attacks toward humans and, usually, death. Severe tick infestations can also lead to anemia, hypothermia, ghost syndrome (where a moose will scratch and rub at their fur until it is worn down to the white base layer, making them appear white) and death. Also, about 250 moose are killed, each year, on New Hampshire highways so always:
At one time in the 1800’s, less than 15 animals existed in New Hampshire, probably due to over-hunting and loss of habitat to settlers. There were, once, more moose in New Hampshire than deer. It took until the 1970’s for their population to rebound a bit. This year, the population stood at, roughly, 4000. University of New Hampshire researchers have received a grant to investigate why their numbers have dropped from a 1996 high of 7,600. Climate change, leading to warmer weather and heavier tick infestations, is the prime suspect. Let’s hope their research can help!
As you begin to crest Bald Mountain’s summit, passing red spruce and cairns left by other hikers, the views open up; Crotched Mountain, North & South Pack Monadnock and Grand Monadnock, along with an overview of Willard Pond. This is beautiful country…moose country…and it should always remain so.
Finally, I’m going to post this video (which is, needlessly, long and features two morons goading a moose into attacking…grrrr) but demonstrates the sounds and body language a moose uses to say, “Look man, I got no beef with you! Move along!” This is valuable information, should you ever stumble across one of these gorgeous creatures in your day travels. Also, here are some reading options if you’d like to learn more about these amazing mammals:
I hope you’ll hike Bald Mountain and be inspired by the many other day/weekend travel adventures in our blog.
Have you hiked Bald Mountain, enjoyed Willard Pond/dePierrefeu Sanctuary or had your own encounter with a moose?
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Until next time, happy and safe day-travels,