Mission Moose

Well, I have not seen a moose. I’ve seen moose statues and moose cut outs and moose themed signs and a sign that said “Moose area next one mile” and another that said “Moose viewing area” and lots of good moose habitat, but no actual moose to be found.

Moose populations in MN have been stable in recent years, but took a large hit ten years ago that they have been slow to recover from. The MN Department of Natural Resources has a 52 page plan (available in pdf for anyone’s reading pleasure) for preserving the moose population that includes everything from more extensive research and monitoring to creating refuges and protecting habitats.

There are several things that contribute to declining or flatlined growth. My beloved white tailed deer are one of them. Deer like fresh growth, whether it comes from humans developing land or wildfires, the deer are soon to follow.

They bring with them a brain parasite that doesn’t affect the deer, but kills moose. In the very northeastern most tip of MN the moose are mostly safe- the snow is deeper than deer like so they remain closer to Lake Superior, where temperatures are higher and snowfalls lower.

What kills two thirds of moose calves before one year of age, are timber wolves.

I didn’t see any wolves, either.

Wolves have been protected in MN for a long time now, except for briefly when they first came off the endangered species list. MN was quick to institute a hunting season.

There are a lot of farmers in MN. It only takes once to see a full grown cow come hobbling in on three legs to develop a dislike for wolves. It only takes once, to see a momma cow standing over her calf, being eaten alive to protect her baby from a pack of wolves, to want them gone. Add to that your barn cats and your chickens and your dog if you’re not careful.

“What gets me,” said Curtis, a friend of the family and an old farmer near the Canadian border, during a recent visit to his farm, “is that they start eating them before they’re even dead. It’s just terrible.”

Curtis has just lost a cow and her calf to wolves. They both came back (cows come home) half alive and torn to shreds, and had to be put down.

Today, they call the game warden, who looks for tracks and tries to find the animals. If he finds them, he’ll shoot to kill, but he’s not likely to find them.

“I shot one once that was coming after my dog. She was tied to the ATV, and I was a little way away out checking fence posts, when I heard her yelp like I never heard before. ‘Course it was illegal to shoot it, so then I had to dig a hole,” Curtis continued.

Curtis’s stories cause a lot of arguments inside my head. About wolves. About guns.

We saw a wolf at his farm once, all alone, trotting down a farm road.

If I have to pick which one I’d rather run into in the woods- even though moose are giant and may have deadly antlers and have been known to charge (but mostly just amble), I’m going to have to go with the NON carnivore if it’s me alone in the woods.

After we returned, dejected, from day two of unsuccessful moose looking, I googled where I can go that I am most likely to see a moose. It’s looking like a trip to Maine is in order.

When I said I wanted to see one in the wild, I never said WHERE.


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