If elk may join our black tails as representatives of the deer family in Butte County, it is unlikely that the largest deer species of all will join them.
The moose (Alces alces gigas, Alaska), at about 1,400 pounds, 6.9 feet at the shoulder, with 79-inch, 79-pound antlers, is the largest of the 41 species of deer in the world. There’s no place to put them in heavily populated California, where the large Roosevelt elk is trying to maintain an existence.
Moose are now found mostly in Canada where there may be a million, but in Colonial days they were plentiful in the Northeast states where they thrived in forested wetlands. The settlers named them elk in reference to European moose that were called elk. It was 1606 before that confusion was cleared up.
By 1870, less than 20 percent of moose habitat remained, and by 1980 only about 100 moose were present in those Atlantic states. Restocking and protection has allowed a surge, and Maine now leads the way with about 76,000 moose.
My home state of Missouri had vast losses of deer, beaver, turkey, otter, and passenger pigeons before a conservation program was created, and many species have been restocked, except for the pigeons that are gone forever.
That story of carelessness with natural resources was prevalent for a lot of species before conservation laws were established. It chills nature advocates to see the greed and thoughtlessness apparent in mankind when uncontrolled use of natural resource choices reign. Governmental administrations presently in 2018 are somewhat similar in attitude.
I know a few moose still exist in Yellowstone National Park where I had my moose encounter. I saw one feeding on the other side of the river and rushed down to take a picture, but the monster didn’t like it — and began swimming toward me! I beat a hasty retreat.
The great palm-shaped antlers are very impressive. Moose are rather sassy, and aside from hippopotamus, injure more people than any other animal in the world, even bears and wolves combined. Behind bison, moose are the second largest land animal in North America and Europe, and the only solitary member of the deer family.
Imagine climbing into the scenic autumnal mountains of Alaska above timberline to hunt a moose. My cousin Albert Tolle’s son Curt Tolle retired from the Navy to the island of Kodiak, Alaska, and has become a big game hunter and outdoor fan, accustomed to hunting the Alaskan mainland mountains for moose since there are none on Kodiak.
Curt expresses extreme appreciation for the wilderness of the far north, describing the grandeur of timberline country in the fall as “the most beautiful place on earth.” Curt said, “Moose are by far one of my favorite animals to watch — very majestic and noble and I feel more than a bit of remorse when I take one, but no meat goes to waste and we are always thankful to fill the freezer with beautiful fresh chemical-free protein.” That rings of Missouri farm life in the 1940s.
Curt remembered my interest in geology, and gathered a box of colorful specimens from a high elevation mountain for mailing. Rocks of the world, like animals of the world, are indications of distant habitats pinning the world together and telling a story of faraway places.
I’ll never get to all those wonderlands, but I see samples through rocks and pictures, and believe they exist. I believe man has been to the moon and saw no moose there! It’s called faith with little evidence.
“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe … The whole wilderness seems to be alive and familiar, full of humanity. The very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly. It is always sunrise somewhere.”
— John Muir
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