Who Invited the Moose?
The Wonders (and Occasional Hassles) of NH’s Abundant Wildlife
ILLUSTRATION BY brad fitzpatrick
When a moose wandered into my Manchester backyard last spring, my first thought was, “Why is he visiting New Hampshire’s largest city and not vacationing in the Whites like a normal Granite Stater?” The giant creature, which looked like a brown Ford Expedition on stilts, was not an image you’re likely to see in the Queen City. In comparison, the closest thing I had seen in Manchester was a wheel-less Chevy Impala on cinder blocks. With great excitement to see him again, I spent more time anxiously looking out my back window over the next few weeks than my wife would care to admit. While I was lucky enough to spot him several times in that interval, the more amazing phenomenon was the parade of deer, foxes, coyotes and even a bobcat, I observed coming from the same direction.
Being the proud nature lover that I am, I bragged about my four-legged visitors to Mike, a hunter friend of mine. He immediately asked me if I heard of the Corridors of New Hampshire. Truth be told, I thought he was referencing a New Hampshire-based tribute band covering the musical stylings of Jim Morrison. Dishonesty be told, I expressed I had no idea of what the Corridors could possibly be. In essence, corridors, or wildlife corridors, are a naturalist’s term for the geographical barriers (e.g. mountains, rivers and valleys) that direct animal traffic as a kind of scenic detour. Apparently, animals are unlike Robert Frost as they prefer the path of least resistance. I was very excited about the prospect that I may have an admission-free wildlife corridor in my backyard. There was just one problem: my humble backyard boasted no mountains, rivers or valleys.
While Mother Nature’s glorious rivers and deep valleys generate numerous animal corridors, further research revealed to me that we humans offer an equally wonderful creation: the interstate highway! As it turns out, the bridges and under-crossings of New Hampshire’s various highway systems provide safe passage for all animals that didn’t grow up playing Frogger. Although the salty and crack-ridden I-293 in my backyard was not as aesthetically pleasing as the Piscataqua River, its ability to funnel animals here and there seems to declare to Mother Nature, “We humans can do just as well as you, or better!” Like my father always says, “Who needs the lull of waves when you can have the gentle swoosh of cars flying by?”
My pro-human stance was put in its place when the seemingly harmless moose reappeared in the middle of the night to callously use our small apple tree as an overgrown nail file to rub his antlers on. The end result was a mangled tree and a pile of low-grade yard mulch made of a half-bark, half-moose blend. The figurative white flag was raised: Mother Nature is the boss! My moose had been a dear friend to me for the many backyard sightings he provided, but now I was forced to settle for my new dear friends, the deer.
Despite this humiliating experience, my motley mammal menagerie was a reminder that our state’s rich wildlife is a treasure found literally in your backyard. So as you’re looking for crocuses popping up along the ragged perimeter of your lawn this spring, take an extra second to look for the animal tracks that may be there. You just might surprise yourself.