The Mighty Moose

Moose Richard JohnsonEarlier in the season, nature photographer and Mass Audubon volunteer extraordinaire, Richard Johnson, set out to photograph a moose that had been spotted at Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, Massachusetts.

Waiting patiently from the safety of his car, telephoto lens ready, Richard snapped this photo when the moose appeared at the edge of a sanctuary meadow. The announcement and photograph on Facebook generated much excitement and many folks expressed surprise that moose were in Massachusetts.

Hiding in Plain Sight
According to MassWildlife, there may be 1,000 or more moose living and breeding in Massachusetts. At Wachusett Meadow, there have been sightings for more than a decade. But that wasn’t always the case.

Back in the early 1700’s, much of Massachusetts’ forests had been cleared for farming. Since this habitat is essential for moose, they moved on, all but disappearing from our borders. Fast forward to the present, Massachusetts is the 8th most forested state in the country. So it’s not surprising that moose join the growing list of animals, including fishers, eastern coyotes, wild turkeys, and beavers that have returned to our neck of the woods.

For the most part, moose can be found in central and western Massachusetts. Rarely, a moose may even be spotted in the eastern part of the state, like the young moose that wandered through a backyard in Wellesley in June.

Moose Facts

  • Everything about a moose is big! They are the largest deer in the world and the biggest antlered animal in the world. At shoulder height, moose can stand up to 6 feet tall. An adult female generally weighs 500-700 pounds; an adult male 600-1,000 pounds.
  • Males grow antlers in early spring. If the male is full grown and well fed, his antlers can weigh over 30 pounds and measure 7 feet across. Imagine carrying that much weight on your head!
  • Big antlers help attract a mate in September and October and then fall to the forest floor in early winter, where they are gnawed on by mice, porcupine, and rabbits in search of calcium and minerals.
  • Females give birth in May and June, usually to single calves who stay with their mothers for one year until the mother is ready to calve again.
  • Moose tracks are similar to white-tailed deer tracks in shape (two crescent-shaped halves), but are much bigger: usually 4-6 inches long if they belong to an adult moose. The pointed end of the track indicates the direction of travel. Like white-tailed deer, a moose leaves an alternating walking pattern.
  • In Algonquin, the name moose means “eater of twigs” or “stripper of bark” and, indeed, moose are huge herbivores, eating up to 60 pounds of roughage daily. In winter, moose eat needle bearing trees and hardwood bark, buds, and twigs. Favorites include willow, aspen, white birch, and mountain ash.
  • Like all deer, moose lack a set of upper incisors, so moose tear and strip browse and bark rather than cutting their food neatly. Unlike smaller deer, moose browse very high—up to 7 feet above the ground.

If You See a Moose
You’re most likely to see a moose in September and October during breeding season (when males go in search of a mate) and again in May when the young of the previous year leave their mother before she calves again.

It can be thrilling to see such a large, beautiful animal in the wild, but be careful! “While not aggressive by nature, moose can pose a threat at certain times of the year,” says Bill Davis, District Supervisor with MassWildlife. “Males entering their breeding season could react if people approach, he notes. Likewise females with calves can be very protective and defensive. Watch and enjoy moose always from a respectful distance.”

If you do see a moose, please report your finding to MassWildlife to help them continue to monitor moose populations. And if you see a moose at a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary, let us know!

Want to learn more about wildlife in the winter?
Take a Mass Audubon tracking class this winter and learn to recognize tracks and scat of moose and other winter animals.

Photo © Richard Johnson

11 thoughts on “The Mighty Moose

  1. Denise Ranger

    Moose sighting at 11:10 pm on Friday, July 20, 2013 in West Townsend, MA. The moose walked up the path from my horse pasture, past my barn, up the driveway and accross Route 119. Luckily he/she made it accross safely. The Squannacook River runs along the back of my pasture, so I am sure the moose must have went down to the river for water and to cool off, since is was an extremley hot day. A few weeks ago there were moose tracks coming into my driveway down the path to my horse pasture to the river. Townsend State Forest is on the other side of the Squannacook River, so I am wondering if it was in the area for awhile. It certainly was a thrill to see it. 🙂

  2. Gail Nason

    Probably about 10 years ago, we were driving in Boylston, MA (near Wachusett Reservoir) and a huge moose crossed right in front of us. Thank goodness we were able to stop in time. That thing would have crushed our Ford Focus. It was such a thrill to see it, it was surreal and unforgetable.

  3. Phil Rand

    When I was Director of Wachusett Meadows in the late 60’s – early 70’s I found moose tracks twice in a small “boggy” area on the back side of Brown Hill. By the time someone came out from Lincoln to verify it they were gone. Ah well.

  4. molly

    Not sure where Mass.claim to be the “8th most forested state” comes from. Other websites list Massachusetts much farther down — 34th in one case. Are you counting percentage of land that’ forested? Other lists may count the actual number of acres

    1. Hillary

      According to the Director of Land & Forest Conservation for the MA Executive Office of Energy & Environment, at 62 percent forest cover, Massachusetts is in fact the 8th most forested state in the country.

      The Northeast and Northwest US have an abundance of forest cover, compared to the rest of the country, giving us an extra responsibility to conserve/enhance it as part of a global climate change strategy (trees absorb as much as 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions).

  5. L

    October Mt State Park has a number of them, according to what the people in the office (accessed from Lenox Dale) told us. Looking for them during the rut is not recommended–one of them even attacked the state park official’s pickup truck a couple of years ago, being over-excited.

  6. Barb

    A friend and I were shocked to find an injured moose in Leicester, MA a few years ago…a road hit. She immediately called the man in charge of Animal Control in Leicester and said he was ‘the best thing going for animals’. It was so sad.

    My hubby and I witnessed a ‘cow’ with her ‘calf’ (is this correct?) while on a Maine Whitewater rafting trip. We also came very close to one in New Hampshire while hiking with the AMC. . .it was only several yards away.

    But our favorite experience happened while visiting a friend who moved to Alaska in 1988. There were moose just about everywhere. We pulled up to one in our vehicle. It was right on the side of the road munching away…we could have reached out and touched it!

  7. Barb

    We have seen them in New Hampshire (and unfortunately we chanced upon an injured moose in Leicester, MA on the side of the road). No one had stopped after hitting this poor animal, but my fast thinking friend called a well-known animal control person.

    In Anchorage…plenty of them! We stopped the car more than once and could have reached out to pat them.

    My favorite moose sighting: in 1975 in the St. John River as I canoed with a boyfriend. It was swimming right along next to us in the river. Did not think they ventured into fast moving water….?

  8. Claudia Pommer

    Hi Folks, We have hundreds (at least 50) of Common Redpoles on our bird feeders for the first time since we have been feeding the birds (about 5 years). The come in large flocks just about every day, sometimes they miss a day. I guess they will head north in April (?), it’s sight to see them but bird feed isn’t cheap and they ear alot of thisle and sunflower seeds, no suet. What I find interesting is that we have never seen them here before. Sincerely, Claudia, Wendell, MA

    1. Paul Brennan

      About redpolls, go to Youtube and once there, in their own search box, type
      “redpolls going nuts”, watch the 30 second video and read all of my
      explanation. It is simply amazing and hopefully you are in for some
      comparable fun with your birds.

  9. Sharla Fenwick

    I just read your blog in the e-mail you sent about Moose in Mass. Where is a reliable location to view moose in Mass.? I have been searching for them in Central & Western Mass. with no luck. Do you know of a spot that is fairly dependable to see a moose? Please send location and simple directions. Thankyou!


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