Moose are Masters of Disguise
Moose Alley in Pittsburg, NH
Moose are big.
Like, 1000 pounds big.
As a kid, I had a dog. He was a yellow Labrador. His name was Chewy. He was pretty big. Not moose big, but definitely Labrador big. He didn't really know his own size, though, and certainly didn't see any reason to believe he couldn't be a lap dog.
Maybe moose are the same way. Of course they're not really all friendly and snuggly like Chewy was, but they seem similarly afflicted with an inability to accurately gauge their own size.
In the spring, we spent some time in the tiny town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire. Located right on the Canadian border, it is the northernmost town in the state. It's a tourism town, with lots of quaint little cabins on its many lakes. There's plenty of outdoorsy stuff to do--it's a popular spot for fishing and hunting, and a huge destination for snowmobiling--and lots of wildlife to see. We went with the express purpose of spotting moose, as the northern section of NH Route 3 running from Pittsburg to Quebec is commonly nicknamed "Moose Alley," and I'm more than a little obsessed with finding these giant yet oddly elusive animals.
It turns out moose are a lot less sneaky than one might expect. Like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, the Moose Alley moose population basically suck at concealing themselves. If the moose had an M.O. for hiding, it might best be articulated as "If I can't see you, you can't see me." We found them with their heads behind tiny trees, street signs, tall grass, embankments--and their hulking 1000-pound bodies out in the open.
I love moose! They weigh 1000 pounds, and yet they seem to think they can hide behind saplings and signposts.
Tips for spotting moose
Suffice it to say that there was little challenge involved in spotting moose when driving Moose Alley. But if you'd like to improve your chances, here are some tips for seeing moose.
1. Drive slowly.
Moose frequently linger near puddles along the side of the road as they like to drink road salt runoff. They also frequently cross the road. Either way, you want to slow down so you don't miss them, or worse, hit them. Due to their height, the bulk of a moose will often fall on the windshield or roof of a car when it hits them. Do you want to get crushed by a moose? I didn't think so.
2. Don't harass them.
Moose are crazy. They're big, they're faster than they look, and they're unpredictable. Just because they look ridiculous doesn't mean they're not dangerous wild animals. They have been known to trample people and attack dogs. Watch from a safe distance.
3. Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot moose.
Dawn is alarmingly early, though. Go in the evening. One morning, we got up in the dark and didn't see any moose. We were exhausted for the rest of the day and decided to sleep in for the rest of the trip.
Because it can be pretty dark early and late in the day (duh), you'll need a camera with decent high ISO performance to get moose photos.
May to October is the best time of year to go to Moose Alley.
4. You may not see antlers.
Bulls shed their antlers after the mating season in the fall and regrow them in the summer.
5. Moose also like to hang out in clear-cut regrowth areas.
Moose like open space to stretch their big long moose legs. Spots that have been logged and are starting to regrow are prime moose habitat.
6. Moose Alley is pretty
Even if you don't find any moose. But you will. It's basically guaranteed.
7. Moose Alley has lots of other wildlife, too
Like deer, grouse, wild turkey, and, apparently, skunks and porcupines.
Where to stay in Moose Alley
We chose The Cabins at Lopstick and are considering returning there. Our cabin was massive and quite nice. They had canoes and fishing gear available to borrow as well. We had an outstanding meal (I had the maple-glazed scallops) at Murphy's Steakhouse up the road.
Share Your Moose Alley Experience
Have you been to Moose Alley, or have you seen moose reliably elsewhere? Share your experiences in the comments!