The Moose Whisperer




Call him "Mooseman," everybody does. Rick Libbey of Andover picked up the moniker a few years back, when he got serious about taking pictures of moose and sharing his stories about the experience. Go to his Web site (www.moosemannaturephotos.com) and you'll see moose in every possible pose. Some of the photos were taken from just 10 feet away, something few others have been able to do. Libbey has perfected the art of getting close - green camouflage, green kayak, hugging the shoreline to have green trees as the backdrop, making sure he's downwind and so on. He's now turned his love of the moose into a business - selling photos, doing slide shows and writing books. He says he gets "great joy" from sharing his experiences and seeing people - especially kids - get "sparked up" about an amazing wild creature. Why moose? As people say, they look like they were made by a committee. Yes, they're strange looking. They're actually very intelligent; they have to be to survive the conditions they live in. A big bull may go into winter weighing 1,200 pounds. If it's a harsh winter he may barely make it through and weigh only 700 pounds by spring. You get very close to moose in your kayak, just 10 feet in some cases. Why do moose let you so close? I've formed bonds with them. If you go to the same place each year, you see not any old moose, but the same ones. I can't call it a friendship, but they trust me. Mothers leave their babies with me. That's unheard of with moose. Wow, moose sitting? Yes, moose sitting. Do they have names? About 30 of them do - there's Pot Belly and her baby Sweet Pea, Bill the Bull, Gordon and Big Boy, who's my favorite. Ever been called a "moose whisperer"? Funny you should say that - I've been flirting with writing a book with that title. Have you ever felt in danger with moose? Not your buddies, of course. I've never been charged by a moose, but that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous. Mostly they're gentle, but mothers are very protective. You have to watch the body language; it's the same as a cat or dog. Ears flat against the head, the hair might stand up. The third - and final - thing is the tongue comes out. When that happens, he's decided; better have a tree close by. What would they do to you? They use their front hooves if their antlers haven't grown. You know, antlers are the fastest-growing living things? When I go out, say, on a Sunday and again four days later, the antlers may have grown half a foot - in four days! I've heard May is a good month for moose watching. It is, but not a good month for photographs. They're molting and very unattractive. If you want to see a moose, early morning is the best time; they're very active then. And pick the right area - Pittsburg is still the best place to go. What's ahead for you? To carry on, to keep doing this. Maybe a coffee table book, another children's book. I want to spread the word. There's something about moose for the people of New Hampshire. I just love sharing and making people happy.

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