Hey, Rocky! Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat!

rocky and bullwinkle

For most of my life, the closest I ever came to a moose was while watching The Bullwinkle Show on television. I  loved Moose and Squirrel, Boris Badenov and his sidekick, Natasha. I even married an ardent fan of the Bullwinkle genre.

My husband and I once decided to see a real moose. We reasoned that since we had seen most of the other big mammals around it was high time we saw one. In New Hampshire, where we got engaged, we were assured that they saw moose all the time near our inn. We didn’t see one. So, we went to Maine. Slam dunk, we figured. Isn’t it their state animal or something? No moose. On to Newfoundland, where moose are more populous than people. No moose. So I’ve developed something like a bitter obsession. My husband just snorts (kind of like a moose, actually) when I bring it up.

When I got an e-mail a year or so ago from Cindy Stanley here at Hill-Stead saying they found moose tracks, I was skeptical to say the least.  Probably a big deer, I thought to myself.  My polite reply included a picture of deer tracks, figuring that would be the end of it. Cindy,a delightful person of impeccable manners, wrote again to say, “Not exactly”.  For starters, she pointed out, the tracks just outside the Sunken Garden were bigger, lots bigger. I sent pictures of moose tracks. Yes, she said, just like that.

The next morning I checked it out.  Moose. I sheepishly reckoned that this one was a Romeo (based on weight I thought it must be a male, he was so heavy he sunk into the ground right up to his dew-claw, a protrusion at the back on the leg about halfway to the knee) wandering around looking for a mate.  He may have been following the Metacomet Trail that runs through the property.  It could have been a Juliet too, I suppose, since a girl moose wanders around loooking for a boyfriend in the fall, too. There are all kinds of noisy and goofy (to our ears) vocalizations when they find each other.

Moose are making a comeback, and I thought it possible we’d see another on the property.  From the early 1900’s when the Pope family began their life at Hill-Stead, to the 1930’s,  there were sporadic sightings of moose across the state.  Between 1992 and 1999, the average was six sightings a year, mainly in the northern part of the state. Massachusetts had a growing moose population, so wanderers were expected since moose disperse over very long distances. Clearly, moose were likely to become more than neighbors.

The current moose population is estimated to be about 100.  Late last week, a moose was seen once again in Farmington.  Early on Saturday, May 16 someone spotted a moose over at Miss Porter’s School on Porter Road.

moose at porter's

Now, it could be that this was a Bullwinkle wannabe mistaking Miss P’s for the famous moose’s alma mater, Wassamatta U.  Or, it could have been a Bullwinkle relative checking out alternatives to Frostbite Falls.  More likely it was a Nutmeg State resident just trying to find a bite to eat.  An average moose eats 40 to 50 pounds of food a day. They eat buds, twigs and leaves from various plants including birch, maple and cherry. A young moose looking for a new territory can travel 5 to 10 miles a day and 100 miles over five weeks. He might visit a dozen towns during that time.

porter's moose

Over the next five years DEP estimates have the moose population rising by 91%, so these two Farmington visitors are hardly likely to be our last. I know I’m not going to be a doubter next time Cindy Stanley rings me up with news of a moose, that’s for sure.

See You on the Trails,

Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist
pretty moose

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3 Responses to “Hey, Rocky! Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat!”

  1. Ratty Says:

    Now this is really cool! I would love to get to see a moose. Your pictures are all I’ll ever get though. If they’re making a comeback there, maybe one day they’ll be as common as deer are here.

  2. Bridget Says:

    I had no idea there were so few there.

  3. Cindy Stanley Says:

    Thanks for my 15 minutes of fame!

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