Moose memories: The day I saw a moose in Acadia National Park

Oh, this was no deer.

We have deer by the dozen, but we have no moose in Acadia National Park.

This is a sore spot with tourists, who drive a long way expecting to see a moose in Maine's only national park. It used to be my job, as a Park Ranger, to tell them the bad news.

“There aren’t a lot of moose in mid-coast Maine, and there are none on this island” I’d tell them, as disappointment clouded their faces.

And I got it, I felt their disappointment as well. I'd spent a lot of time looking for moose myself, visiting remote lakes and lonely stretches of road in northern Maine and New Hampshire to catch glimpses of them in the wild. I'd had my share of moose adventures, only to now settle on a mooseless island, explaining their non-existence here to sad tourists.

For this reason, I always gave the tourists a glimmer of hope. “Moose may wander through,” I’d say, because it was true. "But we have no resident population on Mount Desert Island,” I'd conclude.

So the tourists would quiz me, wondering aloud how moose would “wander through” an island. Wouldn’t the water stop them? They couldn’t get over the bridge, could they? No, and no, I’d answer. Moose wouldn’t likely come over a causeway bridge full of traffic. But the water wouldn’t stop them: moose are excellent swimmers. In fact, a moose was once seen swimming out to Swan's Island, almost 10 miles offshore. Fascinating creatures, moose.

After one such moose conversation, a co-worker relieved me of my desk duties for a few hours of office time. I left my disappointed park visitors and went downstairs to the copy machine, which was by the back door with a view out to the employee entrance. Just as I turned on the copier, a moose walked by and stopped outside the glass door.

“There’s a moose,” I said out loud. But no one was around to hear me. So I said again louder, “Moose!” Still, no one stirred. Rangers’ offices are pretty empty during the height of the season, when most people are talking to tourists or out on programs.

I started to panic a little. I appreciated the chance to see a moose, but I knew none of my co-workers would believe me. “Yeah, sure you saw a moose,” they’d say. “Are you sure it wasn’t a big deer?” Oh, this was no deer. I felt indignant thinking of this imagined conversation, and tried again to get a witness. I took a deep breath.

“THERE’S… A… MOOSE!” I yelled.

Park Rangers came running from every direction. They hadn’t heard what I said; they just heard me yell. They thought I was in trouble, and for an instant I felt guilty for crying moose. But it was all worth it when they saw what I saw.

“Moose!” I said, and pointed to the glass door. The moose was still there, casually munching on some beech leaves by the staff entrance. He was a young male with short fuzzy antlers and that unmistakable moose profile. My co-workers stood aghast.

The moose stopped eating, looked sidelong at us through the glass door (I imagine, though in reality he was not aware of us at all), and on he wandered, into the trees.

In my mind I followed him into the woods. Though I went back to my “office time" after that chance encounter, I was really on moose time for the rest of the day. There’s just something about seeing a moose that changes your whole perspective.


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