We can finally cross off a moose from my wildlife viewing bucket-list, because on October 5th I finally saw one. A rarity for Northern Wisconsin!
Having a place up north and fishing there up to 75 days per year, I often travel and drive through the woods and backroads to reach the access points to several bodies of water. A large number of my venues are located in the middle of nowhere and the only ways to access them is by taking numerous little side roads. By taking these routes, I am often prepared with camera nearby for some cool sights and findings. While fishing, and traveling to get there, something unique almost always happens whether it’s encountering interesting wildlife or scenery. I’ve seen bears, porcupines, otters, massive woodpeckers, and other big birds. But moose? I knew they were present somewhere, but unlikely to ever be seen due to their low statewide population.
Logic suggests that the rare and elusive moose can likely be seen in the state forests, designated state natural areas, swamps and marshes, and uninhabited lakes and rivers. However, the one I sighted was grazing the shoreline of a highly-developed lake that is less than ten minutes west from my house.
I don’t like to reveal the places where I fish because I want my privacy respected, but the moose was sighted on 750 acre, Shishebogama Lake, located just outside of Minocqua, Wisconsin.
My friend, Jacob Saylor, and I were fishing for muskies and roughly an hour after releasing a near 40 incher, we motored down to the southern end of the lake to resume a new drift with the wind. While driving the boat, Jake yells to me, “Slow down! Look at that animal there! Is that what I think it is?”
“No #%#@!,” I said. Our imaginations were not playing games on us this time.
I slowly idled over and as we approached closer I killed the motor. I quietly stood up and crept up to my boat’s casting deck where I quietly sat with the Canon DSLR and controlled the trolling motor to creep closer.
Jake took video with his Iphone while I shot away with the camera. Throughout the process I kept inching forward.
I kept taking photos without any regard for the camera batteries, and we kept inching closer and closer to the shoreline. My boat can handle water less than a foot deep, and the closest I got to the magnificent creature was within 50 feet in less than two foot of water.
The only time he acknowledged our presence.
The young bull was as docile and relaxed as it could be. Not once did he turn or try to get angry on my boat for encroaching. I respected his privacy, and gave him room to graze. In exchange it respected us for being his paparazzi and documenting this likely once-in-a-lifetime event for me in Wisconsin. I’m sure he enjoyed the PR he was about to get in the Lakeland Times and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. (Due to my lack of internet access, a homeowner from the lake beat me to the story.)
By the time the photo session had concluded, approximately 150 photos were taken of the creature. I feel so privileged to have been able to see such an elusive and beautiful animal. Now that I have seen moose, the other elusive animal I need to see is a wolf. A large pack of them I hope. And maybe a 60 inch muskie and a 9 pound smallmouth bass.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, moose are a rare animal species in Wisconsin and do a good job of being elusive for a large mammal. The DNR estimates that the Wisconsin population of moose is at 20 to 40 animals (2003).
In the 1980’s Michigan conducted a reintroduction of moose in the Upper Peninsula. As moose have been reintroduced into the wild and acclimated themselves, the animals have been increasingly sighted in northern Wisconsin.
In 2002, after more than a century, state biologists documented the first moose calf birth in Wisconsin.
Moose are native to Wisconsin and are found at lower numbers than they were historically. According to biologists, there are two reasons for this. The first is a lack of habitat and high deer numbers. Secondly, deer carry brainworm which is a parasite that kills many moose.
The moose is the largest member of the deer family. Adults stand 5 to 7 feet at the shoulder and are from 8 to 10 feet long. Bull moose weigh anywhere from 900 to 1,400 pounds and cows weigh from 700 to 1,100 pounds.
In Wisconsin, moose are classified as protected species.
This moose observed near Minocqua was alone - which is common for most moose sightings in Wisconsin - a young male dispersing into new territory, looking for a mate.