CONWAY — “After God was done making everything else,” so goes an old New England saw, “He took the leftover parts and made the moose.”
That about gets it right when it comes to the large, gangly creatures who can often be seen along northern New Hampshire's wooded roadsides.
The best places to spot a Bullwinkle J moose? The Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) is a great place to spot a moose, as are the notches of Crawford and Pinkham (U.S. Route 302 for Crawford Notch and U.S. Route 16 for Pinkham Notch).
North of Berlin, a four-hour trek north from Boston will put moose fanatics in Errol. Once there, head another 20 minutes north on Route 16 toward Wentworth’s Location. Wetlands surround the roadway, creating a prime environment for these massive creatures to thrive.
GUIDED TOURS: Those who would rather leave the driving to others will want to take a guided tour with MWV Moose Bus Tours, North Conway's Moose Safari.
The company boasts a success rate of 95 to 96 percent in moose sightings, April through September. Because October historically has been the lowest for sightings, the company starting in October 2012 will change its departure time for later in the evening.
“An increase in moose sightings should be the result,” notes the company's website,www.mwvmoosetours.com.
Moose Safari's guarantee? “If no moose sighting, then you will receive a rain check pass valid through the end of the next season.”
MWV Moose Bus Tours LLC was founded in 2007 by owner/operator Elwyn Wheaton. Born in North Conway, Wheaton is a lifelong resident of Mount Washington Valley and has a well-rounded knowledge of the area. He welcomes questions during the tour.
He says he started in business to be of service to visitors “who want to see a moose but who have concerns about driving strange roads after dark, especially when there are 900-pound plus moose about,” notes the website.
“Given that so many people coming to the valley want to see a moose, providing tours seemed to be the thing to do,” says Wheaton.
According to the website, each journey includes an on-board moose video showing as passengers relax in the company's 26-passenger, air-conditioned and heated Moose Bus as participants travel into “Moose Country.”
Although it is illegal to use spotlights after dark, the company says it is allowed to use flood lights and spotlights to find and view moose.
The company says the Moose Tour is “meant to provide three-plus hours of entertainment,” and has an average of more than five moose per night through Labor Day. When demand requires, a second 22-passenger bus is used. Boarding is based on earliest reservations, who board first.
MWV Moose Bus Tours depart from Norcross Circle, 2660 White Mountain Highway in North Conway Village, next to the Conway Scenic RailroaVictorian train station, mid May through late October.
Departure times vary from 7:30 p.m. in May, June and October, to 7 p.m. in July, August and September because twilight changes through the season.
(Note: Departure time should be confirmed when making your reservation before 5 p.m. at 662-3159.)
“The best time to see a moose is between dusk and dawn, so we attempt to get into prime moose country right at sunset, or later.
Because of cool mountain temperatures, we recommend that you bring a sweater or coat,” notes Wheaton.
Just north of the Mount Washington Valley, other moose tour outfitters include:
• Gorham Moose Tours (for reservations, call 877-986-6673 or 466-3103): These three-hour tours depart from the Gorham Information Booth at the Town Common at 20 Park Street . Tours are given in an air-conditioned and heated 15-pasenger tour bus. The company says it has a 95 percent success rate for moose sightings. On the off-chance those loping giants prove scarce, guests have been known to spot deer, eagles, osprey and bears. The tours are offered at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, from the end of May through late September and Tuesday evenings during July and August (schedule subject to change). Visit www.gorhamnh.org for further information.
• Dan's Scenic Moose Tours ( 723-2501), 50 Main Street, Gorham: As a family-owned business, Dan's offers guided tours for the entire family. Visit www.dansscenictours.com for details.
• Omni Mount Washington Hotel: Just north of the 1902-built grand hotel, you may encounter moose along Route 302, and along Route 2 in Twin Mountain.
Other moose hotspots include Routes 145 between Colebrook and Pittsburg, Route 26 between Colebrook and Errol, Route 110 between Stark and Berlin, and the Umbagog Wildlife Preserve.
Keep your eyes posted and your cameras ready! Especially stay alert when driving during N.H.'s lottery-based moose hunt, which is set for Oct. 18 through 26, 2014.
CONCORD — The N.H. Fish and Game Department offers the following moose facts (Alces alces):
• Moose are big: an adult moose, averaging 1,000 pounds and standing 6 feet at the shoulder, is the largest land mammal in New Hampshire.
• Moose have keen senses of smell and hearing, but they're also near-sighted.
• Their front legs are longer than their hind legs, allowing them to jump over fallen trees, slash, and other debris.
• Moose, like deer, lack a set of upper incisors; they strip off browse and bark rather than snipping it neatly.
• Bulls and cows have different coloration patterns. Bulls have a dark brown or black muzzle, while the cows face is light brown. Cows also have a white patch of fur just beneath their tail.
• Only bulls grow antlers. Antler growth begins in March or April and is completed by August or September when the velvet is shed. Antlers are dropped starting in November; young bulls may retain their antlers into early spring. Yearlings develop a spike or fork; adults develop antlers that may weigh up to 40 pounds with wide sweeping palms with many long tines.
• The bell the flap of skin and long hair that hangs from the throat, is more pronounced in adult bulls than in cows or immature bulls.
• Moose may live 20 years, but average lifespan is 10 to 12 years.
• Brake for Moose: Each year nearly 250 moose are killed on New Hampshire highways. Their dark coloration blends well with dark pavement. To avoid collisions, drive no faster than 55 miles per hour at night and at dusk, so you can stop within the limits of your headlights' illumination.
• Moose-vehicle accidents can occur anywhere in the state. To avoid collisions with moose, scan the sides of the roads, as well as the roadway itself; drive 55 mph or less; and, if you do see a moose, slow down and be ready to Brake for Moose if the animal decides to dart in front of you. Click here for more tips on how to avoid collisions with moose
Range and distribution
Moose occur in Alaska, Canada, northern U.S. from Washington across to northern New England, and the northern Rockies south to Utah. Prior to European settlement moose were more common than deer in New Hampshire; their range extended from the Canadian border to the seacoast.
By the mid-1800s, fewer than15 moose existed in the state. The small number and loss of habitat slowed the recovery of the moose population. The moose herd didn't begin to rebound noticeably until the early 1970s.
By this time, abandoned farmlands and changes in forest practices created a mosaic of mature and young re-growing forests providing excellent moose habitat.
Today moose occur in all 10 counties, with the highest densities in the Great North Woods.
During a year, moose home ranges vary from less than one square mile to more than 25, depending on the season
Habits and habitats
The breeding season or rut extends from mid-September through mid-October. In the northeast moose don't form permanent pair bonds. The bull stays with the cow only long enough to breed, then he leaves in pursuit of another cow. Both bulls and cows travel more during this time in pursuit of a mate. Usually only mature bulls five years or older breed.
Bulls defend a cow they're pursuing, driving off younger bulls and sparring with more evenly matched opponents or youngsters bold enough to test their strength. Bull moose don't feed during the rut and lose considerable weight. After the rut several bulls may be seen eating together fattening up for the upcoming winter.
N.H. Fish and Game is currently studying factors regarding why the state's moose herd has decreased from an estimated 7500 to 4500 moose in the past few years. Warmer winters and the resultant increase in deer ticks are cited as possible factors.
For further moose facts, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us or call N.H. Fish and Game at 271-3211.
UPDATED BY TE 5-14-14