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Those moose are multiplying.

Byline: Mark Blazis

COLUMN: Outdoors

Moose are mating. If you can imitate a bull's grunt or a female's wail, you can call them in very close at this time of year - if you dare. At night, moose additionally give single chip-notes, similar to bird chips, to stay in contact with each other. If you hear these soft notes, you might want to reconsider your course, or whether you really want to chip back.

Last week, John Britz of Rochdale photographed two moose mating in his backyard near the Charlton line. The rutting bull was nose-to-rump with the cow, sniffing for estrogen pheromones. He relentlessly pursued her as she played coy, leading him off into the woods.

The return of the moose is a near-miraculous story, considering the colonists totally extirpated their population. By the early 1700s, moose had vanished from Massachusetts and wouldn't reappear for nearly 270 years. Today, at the Nimrod Club in Princeton and a few other still-wild locations in northern Worcester County, we encounter signs of them daily. Their deer-like pellet droppings are distinctively over an inch long.

It's surprising the colonists didn't call them elk, their proper European name. (Their German name is elch, their Scandinavian name is elg, and their Latin genus name is alces.) What we call elk, the Europeans call red deer. Our English settlers opted for moose, from the Algonquin Indian name moz, which translates to twig- or bud-eater.

Logically, they should have called our elk wapiti. It's probably because our first colonists were from England, where moose didn't exist. But northern Europeans, from Poland to the Baltics, through Scandinavia and Russia, have a great moose- (I should correctly say elk-) hunting tradition.

Moose are the largest deer species in the world, once matched in magnitude only by the now-extinct Irish elk, which looked more like a giant fallow deer rather than either an elk or a moose. The largest moose in the world today are the Alaska-Yukon moose and the Siberian elk. The largest Yukon bull on record weighed 1,800 pounds.

Locally, our biggest moose are about half that weight. Moose evolved huge bodies and long legs to deal with the extreme cold and deep snows - the bigger the body, the more efficient the heat retention.

Not until the 1970s did we see their reappearance here, and not until the early 1980s did they begin breeding in northern Worcester County. Their current population is about 1,000. With no predators and no hunting season, it continues to rise. That's good news - mostly.

Because September and October are their rutting season, you should drive carefully through known moose territory now, particularly from dusk to dawn, when they're most active. Collisions can be fatal. Once their long, spindly legs are taken out from under them, their heavy, high bodies (6 feet at the shoulder) usually wind up going through the windshield or crushing the roof and passengers inside.

Massachusetts drivers already have had several moose accidents and assuredly are going to experience more in the future as our moose population increases. That's the inevitable price we're going to have to pay for the re-emergence of this magnificent deer.

Members of Singletary Rod & Gun Club in Oxford just returned from their annual moose hunt in Newfoundland. Club president Robert Kolofsky shot a 900-pound female. Other members taking moose were Bob Fox of Sutton (700-pound bull), Harry Desmond of Middleboro (750-pound bull), Ed Valliere of Douglas (700-pound bull) and Brian Valliere of Douglas (900-pound bull). From the 200 Sportsmen Club in Webster were Lee Parker of Webster (600-pound cow), Louise Daniels of Oxford (700-pound bull) and Mike Welch of Dudley (800-pound cow).

The growth of our local herd will determine whether we need to continue going far north to hunt moose or whether we'll regain that special privilege in Massachusetts. Our wildlife biologists are carefully monitoring moose numbers, both for their good as well as our own. A future hunt would indicate that a maximum desirable population level has been achieved. That would be a hunt for all of us to celebrate.

Mark Blazis can be reached by e-mail at markblazis@charter.net.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 6, 2009
Words:689
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