Moose Watching in Maine

Moose are the majestic yet lumbering creatures that inhabit the northern forests of the United States and Canada. Tourists and vacationers often plan their vacations around the possibility of glimpsing one of these unusual large-antlered creatures in their natural habitat, but with the north woods being so thick, moose can be very prolific, yet hard to find. While moose are found all over the northern United States, one of the most popular states for spotting a moose is in Maine, and two of the best times of the year to see the moose in large numbers is in the early spring, and even more so, in the early summer.

In the early spring, Maine moose seem to come out of hiding. Although moose do not hibernate, per se, they are not often seen during the winter months in Maine. This may not be because the moose are not there, but more likely because the moose-watchers are not out looking for them. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers often encounter moose on their recreational trails, simply walking along, minding their own business, occasionally behaving in a distracted, yet grumpy manner. The spring rains and warm weather, however, seem to bring moose out onto the sides of the roadways, as if they know that we humans want to see them. Often moose can be seen munching new grass or nibbling something off the side of a tree; usually bark, as most trees do not bloom in Maine until mid-to-late spring.

In the early summer, usually around the end of June or the beginning of July, Maine experiences one of the few miserable things about the otherwise beautiful and pristine state: black flies. Black flies are hideous little creatures about one fourth the size of a regular house fly. They fly rather slowly and move about much like a large knat, but they bite humans and animals, leaving a painful, hard bump that itches terribly. Moose flies are another annoying pest found in the summer forests; these are huge, aggressive flies with a painful bite. As the Maine moose move through the beautiful woods during the summer, these nasty little pests will drive them made, swarming their faces and biting mercilessly. Often the moose will retreat to open meadows, ponds, or roadways, looking for a breeze to ease the swarms of pests.

While living in Maine, we took to the roads one early June day a few years ago and headed up to the Greenville area of Maine, near the popular Moosehead Lake. We did not really have a destination in mind; rather, we simply wanted to drive around and see if we could spot a moose or two. We found a back road that led from Greenville to Millinocket, by-passing the famous Mount Katahdin. The road was bumpy and rarely used, but passable, even in our rickety Volkswagen Golf. We passed only a few other brave souls on the remote road, but we found a magical land of moose.

The pine and birch trees were stunning against a perfect blue sky, and we rounded the first bend to find a young, adolescent moose standing in the middle of the road, looking at our approaching car with boredom. He sauntered away into the woods and we drove on. Soon we encountered a large female standing at the roadside, nibbling some grass and looking annoyed. She whipped her head around and ran into the woods, seemingly perturbed at being disturbed.

By the end of the day, we had seen a grand total of nine moose, one of which was a large, wide-antlered male, standing serenely in the middle of a large lake. It was a postcard moment with the underwater grasses and weeds hanging haphazardly from his majestic antlers. We also saw many more young moose than we would have expected, all seemingly alone, without their mothers, though they were most likely watching from behind a tree.

The next time you are in Maine in the spring or summer, be adventuresome and check out the road between Greenville and Millinocket. The views are some of the best in the state, with amazing sights of Mount Katahdin; and the moose are there. Keep driving, keep your eyes open, and have your camera on and ready. Moose don’t usually move very quickly, other than when they are having their picture taken!

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