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Ramblings

In the early 1990s I was one who opposed the reintroduction of moose to the Adirondacks. Many real Adirondackers did too (Ive lived here full-time only 31 years so I dont qualify). But now that moose have found their way here on their own, I think most of us are thrilled to see even signs of themtracks, browsed shrubs, or even, yes, droppings! Unless your windshield is about to collide with one. There are now about 500 moose in the Park, many of those native-born, real Adirondackers. A dozen have been hit by cars this year, usually resulting in the death of the animal. Luckily and amazingly, so far it seems people have not been hurt badly though in other places the human toll can be fairly high. Though you would think a 1200 pound animal 6 feet high at the shoulder, sometimes with a huge rack, would be very visible, they are very dark and often hard to see. Their eyes are above headlight level and do not reflect light as many other animals eyes do. If it is raining or foggy the chance of seeing one in time is even less. They dont dash out in the road the way deer and other animals do, but they also are not afraid of a puny thing with no teeth. (Maybe if the front of a car could be made to look like an animal with an open mouth and big teeth) Except for being very vulnerable to car collisions (they like the salt that collects in roadside pools in the spring too) moose so far seem to fare well in the Adirondacks. Coyotes, though now bigger than western ones and acting more like wolves, are only able to kill calves until they are about 9 weeks old. Bears can also kill moose. Winter ticks are a major problem in Algonquin Park in Ontario (I have seen them covering the rear end of an otherwise beautiful moose) as they can weaken the animal. Liver flukes can be a problem too, but the brain disease caused by parasitic roundworms and carried by deer has not been an important disease for them here as was feared by biologists. Possibly the deer population in the back country, as opposed to in peoples yards, is not high enough to cause infection of moose. Moose have a four chambered stomach and a digestion slow and thorough enough that they can get nutrients from rough browse including balsam fir, which no other animal uses to any extent. And that is one tree that is still doing well especially around low elevation wetlands. Our huge pond, lake and stream resource provides moose with the salty aquatic plants and cooling waters they need in the summer. The main natural danger to moose probably is prolonged heat over 75 degrees as their huge mass is not adapted to it, so climate warming may drive them north. Their long thin legs are designed for up to 40 inches of snow, unlike deer which have problems with 15 inches. Because of those long legs the body hits the windshield of a car rather than the hood as is often the case with deer. So, until our weather gets too warm, we humans are the main predators of moose. For the good of all of us it would behoove (pun intended) us to SLOW DOWN, maybe even DRIVE LESS at dangerous times of the day (dawn and dusk) and year (fall, before and during mating season when they travel a lot). Besides, studies prove that when a chunky car or truck goes over 60 mph, they can lose up to 23% miles per gallon, nothing to sneeze at with gas prices high and going higher. The exhaust from burning fossil fuel every one knows now is bad for men and moose in many ways, and burning it frivolously is going to get to be as socially attractive as smoking around babies. A number of us tree huggers have resolved to not speed at all, and even go slower than the speed limit on the Northway. It is surprising how much less stressful it is to go 55 (when there is not heavy traffic going 75). For older people especially, it is safer for us not to be forced to go faster than we can handle. And obeying speed limits would be a way for everyone in the country to do something positive towards lowering carbon emissions while ending a major scofflaw situation. How much gas, money , car damage, stress, not to mention how many human and wildlife lives would be saved in this huge country of speeding, gas guzzling behemoths, filling the highways 24/7 if everyone just stuck to the speed limits already in place? In the 70s we slowed to 55 mph on all roads to save gas without most of us even knowing about the high stakes we are dealing with now. Slow way, way down by hiking or canoeing in moose country and you may get to see as I did a primeval sight that makes you feel part of prehistorya couple of young moose grazing in a marsh, startled to see a couple of very odd things floating nearby on the water. I have to say I dont need to see any more moose, especially not in the road!

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