Moose in Maine —
Moose in Maine. A lot of people come to Maine with wild hopes of gazing upon a wild moose in the wild.
“Did you see any moose?” is a common question that people get asked at the end of camping trips to the north country of Maine.
Maine is all about their moose.The icon of the Moose is everywhere, as this animal has found its liking stuffed with plush and made into souvenirs as well as stuffed with taxidermy stuff and made into big dead heads which stick out of the interior walls of summer cottages by the sea.
But I hope that the moose I see in Maine from this day forward are already stuffed. In fact, unless I am way out in the backcountry staring down the sights of a 30 aught 6, I hope I never see a moose again. For chances are it will be standing in the middle of the road in the direct path of me and my little Subaru hatchback.
Moose are big. So big that neither I nor my car would have much of a chance in the likelihood of a collision. As a typical car bumper is around the height of a moose’s knees, when struck, these large animals have the tendency of falling directly through the windshield or crushing the roof of the car down upon its occupants.
Moose/ automobile collisions are, in fact, one of the biggest causes of premature death in Maine. It is right up there with drinking vodka at two in the morning with family members in a backcountry tailor park.
When I was told this I must proclaim that I was taken aback:
“How could anyone hit a moose?” I would jest, “They are huge, you can’t just run into something that big. It is not possible, you would see it from a mile away.”
But you can. I have found that it is incredibly easy, in fact.
“Cars are no match for an adult moose,” I read in an article on New England wildlife damage control, “and because the animal’s legs are so long, a collision usually sends the moose crashing down on the roof and onto the occupants.” The article continued,”To compound the problem, moose have a thick coat of dark hair making them difficult to see at night and often stand their ground, even when faced with an oncoming car, truck or train.” –http://www.wildlifedamagecontrol.net/moose.php
Another article stated the same, “Moose are among the largest mammals in North America. Standing up to 7.5 feet at the shoulder and weighing up to 1,600 lbs, they are the largest members of the deer family. Maine’s moose population (approximately 29,000) is the biggest in the United States outside of Alaska. During a collision with a motor vehicle, a moose usually is struck in the legs, causing its body to roll onto the hood of the vehicle, often collapsing the windshield and roof. As a result, motor-vehicle collisions involving moose are capable of causing substantial injury to vehicle occupants.”
Photo from http://www.bearcreeklodge.net/moose.html
I was driving out in the north country of Maine at 2 AM. Of course it was dark out, and there are no road lights out in those parts. I was buzzing down a highway just after a night on the wolf inquiry project with my wife Chaya. We were tired. But our fatigue was short lived, as it would soon be startled wide awake with a rough shake of fright.
Up until now, the landscape on the middle of the night backcountry highway was uniform and dark, there were no other cars, just the forest hemming the roadway in thickly on both sides. We drove down it peacefully back to our camp.
Then a huge shape of something blended out of the night in front of us. It was running down the road — whatever it was, it was HUGE. We were driving directly behind it.
I slowed the car down with a jolt of haste.
What was this thing?
It stood about 7 feet high, and I made out a shape that looked sort of like a large hairy guy with broad shoulders. It looked like a Sasquatch running away from the headlights. My eyes struggled against my imagination to see what was in front of me. I made out shoulders and a thick body and black as night fur. It was bobbing repetitiously as it ran directly in front of our car.
Could this be a Sasquatch?
It is a rare moment when intellect does not allow my eyes to believe what they were seeing with the imagination standing by idle not knowing what to do. So I just stared at the odd running beast. One long second of confusion went by, then another, then a third.
What was this thing?
I quickly remembered a time in China when I gazed down at the side walk as saw a “thing” that I could not tell if it was derivative of a human, a plant, and animal, a fish, or a manufactured substance. The human mind seems to get blown when it cannot label and classify that which it observes.
“What is that thing?” I finally found the words to ask my wife.
In the dark night the think still looked like a large bipedal hairy beast running away from us as we drove slowly behind it.
My wife had no idea. The beast did look like a Sasquatch galloping down the road — but a person simply cannot say such a thing to another person.
“It looks like a . . .”
I almost said it. But, suddenly, perspective came to my rescue and left the impression of my good senses in tact. As the beast ran off of the road and we drove up next to it, the third dimension of length became evident. And my “Sasquatch” suddenly revealed itself to be a moose.
The shoulders of the large hairy bipedal beast were actually the rear hunches of a very large northcountry moose, galloping down the middle of the road without a care in the world.
If I were that big, I would probably not care about too much about anything either.
The only thing that gave shape to this beast from out of the empty night was its movement. If the black of the moose was not in motion against the black of night, I may not have seen it until it was too late. Giving all their mass and size, it is difficult to notice moose in the road, as they are not only in the landscape, they are the landscape. It is difficult to see any background when you eye down a moose: the only thing that you see is moose. And they are very often as dark and impervious as the black of night.
I shuddered at this thought, and hunched over the wheel of the car, my eyes bulged out as far as they could go as I scoured the roadside for another blemish of black moving before a background of night.
I started laughing, as this is my default response when I become freighted. Perhaps it makes me seem less scared to myself.
Then, like clockwork, another moose appeared in the headlights. This one was standing on the side of the road eating something — we drove by without incident. A mile further down the road another moose walk out in front of us from behind a mass of parked logging vehicles — we slowed almost to a stop. After another two miles yet another moose sighted us from a berry patch on this side of the road — we stopped the car and peered at it like tourists.
It peered back ate us as it ate.
This was wild. I drove the car no faster than 10 miles an hour. We had just passed four large moose in the road within 5 miles of highway. This was wild.
Moose were everywhere, eating, looking around, and just hanging out in the middle of a nighttime highway. It was as if I stepped into some odd sort of cheesy souvenir shop, only these moose where not plush or taxidermied — they were real.
And they neither seemed to care much for the presence of me nor that of my Subaru. We were not intimidating in the least. Rather, the moose lazily looked at me behind the wheel as though I was little more than a passing curiosity — as benign as the wild strawberries that they ventured to the roadside to eat.
They clearly did not take me to be something that could potentially run them over. Or if they did, they did not seem to care too much about being run over. Perhaps they knew that I if I did hit them, I and my metal machine, would probably get the worse end of the encounter. Even with my big bad vehicle, they were far larger than I. In fact, they were far larger than everything — and they knew it.
It is a humbling moment when an American in a car realizes that they do not rule the road that they drive.
The moose rule the roads of Maine.