Clearing for farming in the early 1700s in Massachusetts pushed the moose out of its natural range, and they were thought to have been extirpated from our region. Moose sightings began to be reported in about 1970, and the population has grown so rapidly that these impressively big animals are now abundant in North America, with an estimated population of about 700 moose in Massachusetts. Most of this group is found in northern Worcester County. Moose populations got a boost in northern New England states from forest cutting practices that created ideal moose habitat and from being protected.
The Moose, alces alces, is a member of the deer family, and the largest mammal in North America. Males (bulls) can be seven feet tall and weight up to 1,500 pounds; and a moose calf can weigh in at 200 to 400 pounds by the end of its first year. They feed on trees and shrubs and can live for as long as a quarter of a century. Moose give birth in the spring, and usually produce two, sometimes three calves. Moose aren’t usually aggressive, but they can be when they’re hungry, tired, or harassed by people, dogs, and traffic (sounds familiar!). During the mating season, (early autumn) bull moose can be defensive and chase people, and mothers, (cows) with young calves in the spring, are very protective and will attack humans who come too close. A moose may try to charge, but will "bluff" to give a warning for you to get back. Turn and run! Unlike other animals, such as dogs, bears, and wildcats, which will give chase, a moose is unlikely to chase you very far.
Running into a moose on the highway can be fatal, and such accidents are all the more likely to happen because, as Mass Wildlife notes, “a moose will step out onto a roadway without showing the slightest concern for oncoming traffic. With their long legs, a vehicle hitting a moose will take the legs out from under the animal, flipping the moose's body onto the car's windshield or roof. The dark body is difficult to see and its eyes are much higher in the air than the level of a pair of white tail deer eyes.”
In closing, as in all my articles concerning wildlife, I like to remind everyone that we humans are the most dangerous predator to animals and plant life. We are the ones disrupting natural habitats and causing animals to be on the move. It is our duty to be sensitive to our surroundings, protect Mother Nature, and be aware of new wildlife returning to this area. Most researchers say to expect many more sightings of the magnificent moose. So be on the lookout, and drive with care.
Previously published in the New Marlborough 5 Village News, January 2007.