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The State of the Moose in the State of Connecticut

FALLS VILLAGE — The moose may look exotic, with legs like a horse, the shoulders of a bison, and a nose that bears more than a passing resemblance to those sported by the world’s camels.

But, said Ginny Apple, the moose is really just the largest member of the deer family.

Apple, a Master Wildlife Conservationist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Conservation (DEEP), told an online audience all they ever wanted to know about the moose on Saturday, Jan. 22, via Zoom and courtesy of the David M. Hunt Library.

Apple said the word “moose” comes from an Algonquin word meaning “twig eater.”

She noted that winter is a good time to go out in the woods to look for moose traces, if not actual moose.

(Apple also pointed out that the plural of “moose” is “moose,” not “meese.”)

One thing to look for is twigs or small branches on trees, snapped off at a height of 5 feet or so.

Moose are tall creatures. The Alaskan variety can stand 7 feet at the shoulders. An eastern moose clocks in about a foot shorter.

Their height makes them particularly vulnerable to unfortunate encounters with automobiles.

“Moose are so tall we can’t see their eyes shine,” she said. Being dark in color, they blend in on dark roads. And when they get hit by cars, the impact is at the knees, which means the moose ends up on (or through) the windshield.

“So, slow down on our dark roads,” Apple said, sensibly.

Apple said it is “unclear” if moose are native to Connecticut, but at one point in the distant past the animals did reside as far south as Pennsylvania.

Today Connecticut has about 100-150 moose living along the Connecticut/Massachusetts border, with a concentration in Hartland.

She noted that Massachusetts has a moose population of roughly 1,500-2,000.

Asked about moose in Great Mountain Forest (in Falls Village and Norfolk), she said there are about 30 moose — “a breeding population.”

The outlook for moose in Connecticut is not good. Apple said they are susceptible to disease, heat stress, habitat loss, and competition with deer for forage.

Brain worm is a particularly nasty problem. Apple said a moose was observed recently in Hartland behaving erratically. When DEEP investigated, they found the animal was suffering from brain worm and had to put it down.

Winter ticks flock to moose in hundreds of thousands. Moose populations in Vermont and New Hampshire have declined significantly due to infestations of winter ticks.

An unexpected moose peril is old wells and foundations, which are not uncommon in Connecticut’s forests. Apple said there have been instances of moose getting trapped in an old foundation and being unable to get out.

Apple said there are no cases of moose attacking people in Connecticut. The moose generally avoids people, she continued. 

If you do encounter a moose, and it stomps its feet and huffs and puffs, the best option is to get behind (or climb) a tree.

“It can’t get at you, and it will get bored and leave.”

 

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