April 22, 2007

The moose is making a comeback

I remember back in the 1970s looking out at the Adirondack landscape and wondering, why are there no moose here? After all, the moose is one of those symbols of the Great North Woods. Moose did roam New York State in an earlier era, but the last native one was shot in the 1860s. There had been occasional wandering moose visitors, but none survived to bear offspring, that is until 1980.

In the fall of that year, five known moose came into New York from Vermont; one young bull was illegally shot in Champlain; the others dispersed. As more moose entered the state, the herd, after a slow start, began to grow. Today, there may be more than 400 moose in New York. During one winter flyover by the Department of Environmental Conservation, 13 moose were spotted in one small section of Franklin County alone.

If our herd follows Vermont's, as far as reproduction is concerned, we could have a thousand of these big animals in New York in five years.

The French Canadians call the moose "L'Original," an appropriate name for this odd looking animal that is as big as a horse and has a long, funny-looking snout.

Moose breed in the fall, usually during October, so bulls are on the prowl at that time, increasing the chances of moose/auto collisions. Moose are also on the move in the springtime, but for a different reason. After spending a long winter high up in the hills and mountains, especially those that were logged over, eating mountain ash and striped maple saplings (their favorite foods), the moose gravitate toward the wetlands.

Moose have an affinity for salt, so wetlands near heavily-salted highways are readily sought out. Here, the moose, while sipping the salty highway runoff, create "licks" or "wallows," and because of their proximity to highways, there is always the chance for a vehicle collision.

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