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March 17, 2010

Close Encounters of the Moose Kind

Even in rural Vermont, moose are a sight to behold

The Humane Society of the United States


  • A ghostly figure emerges from the mist. Hillary Twining/The HSUS


  • Just beyond the tangle of branches lies an open pasture that is normally occupied by our equine neighbors “Edward” and “Splash”. Hillary Twining/The HSUS


  • On a mild January afternoon, mist hangs low over the melting snow, providing good cover for this unexpected visitor. Hillary Twining HSUS&


  • A moose on the move, following the wire fencing. Hillary Twining HSUS&


  • A glossy-coated bull moose browses on foliage at the edge of our lawn. Hillary Twining/The HSUS


  • The play of shadow and light makes this cow’s face appear almost disembodied from her massive body. Hillary Twining/The HSUS


  • Leggy and immature but still remarkably tall, this calf reaches for its next mouthful. Hillary Twining/The HSUS


  • Mom casts a watchful eye toward our house as her calf grazes. Hillary Twining/The HSUS

by Hillary Twining

Even when you live in rural Vermont, seeing a moose takes you by surprise. But every now and then, serendipity taps you on the shoulder. Such was the case when my husband – driving down our dirt road on a January afternoon several years ago – caught sight of a large, ungainly shape in the pasture where our neighbor grazes her horses.

Moose in the mist

The day was unseasonably mild and a curtain of mist hovered above the melting snow, but the shadowy figure behind the trees was unmistakable: a moose. The only thing missing was a pair of antlers, leaving my husband to wonder whether the moose was a female or a young male. He pulled to the side of the road and grabbed his camera while the moose browsed among a stand of trees and loped along the fence line.

Although my husband was concerned that the animal would have trouble finding its way out, there was no sign of the moose the following day. In fact, without pictures to prove otherwise, this unexpected guest might have seemed a mere phantom from that misty winter afternoon.

An autumn assembly

The following autumn, another unexpected thing happened: a second moose sighting. This time we didn’t have to look any further than our own yard, and instead of one moose, there were now three: a bull, a cow, and her calf. Perhaps most surprising of all, this was no fleeting encounter; instead, the family remained at the periphery of our yard for several hours, nibbling on tree leaves until the trio eventually moved deeper into the woods. The animals’ fur was thick and glossy, lighter brown blending into black. By all appearances, they had enjoyed a bountiful summer.

These encounters reminded me that, seen or unseen, many wild creatures pass through our property. Was one of these moose the solo traveler who had made a brief appearance ten months before? We’ll never know, but I like to think so.

Create a Sanctuary

Enjoy the company of your wild neighbors in your backyard. Every day, more and more bird and wildlife habitat is lost to the spread of development. But you can help all wild animals in urban and suburban areas by offering them sanctuary in your own backyard (or front yard, roof-top garden, or deck), no matter how small. Learn how your green space can become an Urban Wildlife Sanctuary.

Hillary Twining has worked at the HSUS for seven and a half years and currently serves as Emerging Media Specialist. She makes her home in southern Vermont with her husband, daughter, and a 100-pound mutt named Max.

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