Moose on the Loose in the Notch Clarification

Adirondack Moose Ausable River

Cue “Northern Exposure” theme song.

Since I am not an expert in wildlife biology but I love living in a part of the world where I can see other wildlife, and I am somewhat infatuated with forms of life who don’t live in houses, I usually have many questions for the resident biologist. This past weekend is a great example of when I asked and learned something new. Since I seldom pass up a teaching moment, I would like share this information with my readers and clarify the actions taken Saturday afternoon by NY State DEC Wildlife officials as explained to me by the NY State Large Mammal Biologist for the Adirondacks, Edward Reed.

The bull moose in question was reported to the DEC and described as “stuck” in the Ausable River. When officials arrived the moose had indeed been observed standing in one place in the river along Route 86 for a few hours. The moose was observed by the humans who were stopping in the middle of the NY State highway Route 86, in the Wilmington Notch, to take pictures, and by those walking in the road, a road not intended for pedestrians. Point of information; the notch is called the notch for a reason, it is: “a deep, narrow opening or pass between mountains; gap; defile.”  So where normally cars and trucks buzz through a narrow, mountainous, twisting stretch of busy tourist-clogged highway, at speeds of 55 miles per hour, motorists and their passengers decided to stop in the middle of the road to watch the moose.

The State Police were justifiable worried about public safety because of the traffic hazards created by the humans. They asked DEC officials to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bull Moose seemed quite content in the river. He was observed shifting his weight and moving all 4 feet, indicating he was not ‘stuck’ in the river. But, he wasn’t moving and people were still being stupid. Oh, wait, I meant to say, people continued to create an unsafe situation by stopping and walking in the road.

DEC Wildlife officials wanted to see if the moose was injured and could move.  The best way to do that without putting someone in danger was to get the moose’s attention and make him want to move. To be clear, it is not an option to approach a bull moose in breeding season (now) because they will stomp you to death. No kidding.  Tossing stones in his direction didn’t work, and blasting him with the police car siren and horn did not bother him a bit, although I found it quite annoying. Finally, DEC officials deployed harmless paint balls, the kind 12-year-old boys enjoy getting hit with, in an attempt to make Mr. Moose move around to see if he was seriously injured. It worked: he moved and he isn’t.

The paint balls were shot as such a low velocity, (rapidity of motion or operation; swiftness; speed) that the wind from the rainstorm we all endured to gaze at the moose caught the paint balls very easily and affected the trajectory.  When they found the target, he barely felt a thing.

This is why poor Mr. Bull Moose, who in preparation for the rut had just had his winter coat cleaned in order to be spruced up for the ladies, now faces a long, lonely breeding season.

As of Monday evening, Mr. Bull Moose was still hanging around the notch. DEC Wildlife officials advise, “Please leave him alone, we’re keeping an eye on him, you keep an eye on the road.”

As my regular readers know, I like to keep it positive here on the Adirondack Lifestyle blog; life’s too short. I won’t be publishing any negative or hateful comments. But I will be publishing more neat moose photographs.  Let’s not forget the fall foliage tracking project; stay tuned for today’s photograph.


  1. Martha Spear

    Thanks for this very helpful post. I was one of the idiots who could not prevent myself from stopping and gawking last night in the Notch. Mea culpa.

  2. Joann

    You are welcome and glad to hear it was helpful Martha. I’m with you on the difficulty of not stopping to gawk, but I live with Dudley Dooright and have learned it is better for the welfare of wild animals if we leave them alone.

  3. Julie Robards

    I remember a few years ago hearing about an amourous bull moose during mating season who hung around a farm tractor for days….he even tried to get romantic with it. Blinded by love I guess. I was concerned the moose had been hurt during some aggressive mating ritual with another bull. Glad you’re on top of this….the info certainly helps.

  4. Denise Erenstone

    Thanks for the clarification about the way the DEC dealt with Mr. Moose. I was quite sure they were acting in the best interest of the animal but am glad to hear the whole explanation.

  5. Nicole

    Did anyone consider setting up somewhere and giving a cow mating call? Perhaps in a location that would lead it away from the road?

  6. Jim Cushman

    It bothers me that the police are so concerned about hikers (gawkers) on 86 but don’t have the same concerns about runners or bicyclist. They take up the same space and pose the same dangers. I think that area of 86 should be off limits by all, not just people interested in nature. Just sayin’

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