I was in Maine recently doing some maintenance work on a cabin my father built in 1962. Roberta and I were about to take a dip in the lake when we had the privilege of observing a young bull moose feeding on some lily pads in about four feet of water. He was really going to town and not about to cut short his snack on our account. I stood on the dock while Roberta moseyed back to the cabin for my camera.
Thirty shots later he was still well within camera range. Moose are the largest land mammal in the northeastern part of the country and generally the only animal one might fear in Maine. Black bears dot the area as well, but the only times they might be a problem are if one is unlucky enough to get between a female and a cub or get too close to a male during mating season.
Gray wolves also inhabit that area to some extent as do coyotes and I’ve been in the presence of both on numerous occasions. Their willingness to attack humans is overrated. They are not shy about taking out pets though. Bald eagles aren’t either and I always see several every day I’m up there.
Moose are another matter. They have no natural enemies. None would stand a chance against them. They are large peaceful creatures with little fear of humans. There is a limited moose hunting season and severe penalties for poaching one, so moose seldom get shot at.
That should not keep you from maintaining your distance. Moose can have short fuses. Some idiots have learned that when throwing rocks at them or getting too close with a canoe. You can’t paddle faster than they can swim.
Take a drive in the evening on some logging roads and you might see one at close range. In summer, cows show off their maternal instincts. I’ve had them run beside my truck, keeping themselves between me and their calves. For bulky awkward-looking creatures their speed and stamina are impressive.
This one, probably a three year old, looked up at me several times, but he made no advance or retreat. He shook his three to four foot wide rack at me a few times, but that was more to fight the flies than anything else. There is no comparison seeing this majestic creature in the wild as opposed to in a zoo.
How close have I been to a moose? I’ve eaten moose meat numerous times and it is fabulous. The tenderloins are as large as the plumpest filet mignons and the outer loins as or larger than beef rib eyes. Flesh is dark and lean as is venison. Cut for cut the meat is probably tenderer.
On this day, however, my appetite was satisfied far more by watching him and offering friendly conversation. Shooting with my camera far exceeded what I could have done with my rifle, even if season was in and I possessed a valid permit.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.