Lori has all the luck! Not only did she and her husband, Bill, spot wolf pups along one of our Upper Peninsula roads last summer, last weekend they drove by a moose.
And not only one drive-by sighting, mind you. They spotted their first moose on Thursday night after the spring school program. Lori is principal at our tiny two-room elementary school and our seven students performed wonderfully as they shared songs and skits about “Core Democratic Values”. It was a great program!
To top it off, Lori and Bill saw the moose on their way home to L’Anse.
“But we didn’t have our camera,” she sighed to me on Friday at the school.
That figures, right? How often are we driving down roads and there stands the moose we’ve been waiting for over twenty years, and where is the camera? At home on some shelf.
We lamented together. How sad. How awful.
Moose are icons here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Some of our biggest natural attractions. Even though they existed here back in the late 1800’s, by the early twentieth century they had mostly disappeared. In the 1930’s, an attempt was made to introduce the magnificent creatures to the UP (captured on Isle Royale and transported to the mainland) but the project failed.
In the late 1980’s Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources staged another attempt. Fifty nine moose from Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, were airlifted into Marquette County. (My husband covered the historical event for the local newspaper and remembers how one moose was released from his air-lift harness and ran toward the crowd watching its release. Luckily, no one was hurt and the moose eventually discovered a more expedient path to the woods.)
The goal of the program was 1,000 free-ranging moose by the year 2000.
Fast-forward to 2011. How many moose roam in our Upper Peninsula? Sen. Jason Allen has been quoted saying that there are as many as 1,200 moose in the Upper Peninsula. But the scientists who count moose say the number is much closer to 500 and probably lower. The most recent count in 2009 indicated there were 420 moose in their core area of the western U.P., which includes southern Baraga, southwestern Marquette and northeastern Iron counties. Another 100 or fewer roam the eastern U.P.
So guess who glimpsed the second one of these 420-1,000 moose on Saturday? You’ve got it. Lori and Bill. Somewhere around Tioga Creek, between the Baraga and Marquette County lines, this fella (gal? You can’t really tell because the male moose don’t don their antlers until later) was happily munching swamp grass.
This time Lori had her camera! She got out of the car and began to snap photos. (She’ll have a job with National Geographic soon and what will our school do??)
I’ve seen exactly One moose in the Upper Peninsula in all these years. It happened on a similar trip to Marquette with two small children in tow. Let’s pretend it was 1991 or ’92 or ’93.
I was driving home, kinda tired and bleary-eyed. When suddenly–hark!–what goes there? Ohmygoodness! A strange hump-backed HORSE is running across the road!!! A horse? No, that’s not a horse. It’s a–it’s a–(and here the mind tries desperately to figure out what the strange huge loping horse-like creature might be)–IT’S A MOOSE!!!
Wow! What excitement! This was in my pre-photography days. I kept driving down the road. Three cars following me pulled off the road with their passengers leaping out with cameras and diving into the ditch trying to photograph the fleeing moose.
“Look at the silly people,” I told the kids.
Fast-forward about twenty years. If I was fortunate enough to have a camera AND see a moose, I’d be leaping out of the car, too. (Except we are warned to admire moose from a distance with binoculars or long lens. They have been known to be aggressive at times.)
Thanks, Lori, for your eagle eye. Please don’t leave the school for National Geographic any time soon.
P.S. Moose are actually having trouble thriving in the Upper Peninsula because temperatures are too warm. They stress when the average temperature climbs above 60 degrees in the summer or 20 degrees in the winter. Our warmer temperatures in recent years have been challenging for them.