The mating bellow of the bull moose will echo through the deep forests near here this fall if an unusual international animal swap is successful.
Wildlife officials in Michigan have made arrangements to trade 150 of the state’s wild turkeys to provincial officials in Ontario in return for 30 adult moose. The moose are being shipped to a wilderness area 45 miles northwest of this old Lake Superior port town in the hope that they establish themselves and grow in number.
The first moose has arrived and was released from a crate after an overnight truck ride from Algonquin Provincial Park. The new arrival is a 975-pound cow moose pregnant with a calf to be born in the spring.
Moose, the largest member of the deer family, once ranged all across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But, like the elk and wolves that also flourished in the Northern forests, moose fell victim to the post-Civil War boom in timber operations that helped build the cities of the Middle West.
Wildlife Hunted Ruthlessly
Vast stands of timber were leveled, and the wildlife was hunted ruthlessly for sport or meat for lumberjack camps. By the turn of the century, when the forests were finally depleted, moose had been all but eliminated from the Upper Peninsula. Deer, not native to the area, moved in to feed on the scrub regrowth on the logged land.
But an attempt to bring back moose in the late 1930’s failed, partly because of a parasite carried by deer that affected the nervous system and partly because of poaching that was encouraged when meat rationing was imposed in World War II.
But now wildlife biologists say many regrown forests, including some along the northern coast of the Upper Peninsula, have matuured to the point where they have become hostile to deer, whose numbers are dwindling, and ideal for moose. Deer find it difficult to survive the harsh winters here without feeding on the kinds of low vegetation that cannot grow in the shade of tall trees.
Moving the Moose
Wildlife officials hdevised a plan to capture and transfer moose to the Upper Peninsula. Using a light helicopter, they chase the moose onto the frozen lakes of Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park and then shoot them with tranquilizing darts.
Once the moose are downed, a second, larger helicopter is called in to carry them in a sling five to 10 miles to a base camp. There they are to be weighed, fitted with collar that emit radio signals for subsequent tracking, and put in large wooden crates for the 16-hour truck ride to their new home.
John Holusha, “Ontario Moose Resettled in Michigan“, New York Times, January 26, 1985, p. 6.
John Hussar, “Moose Free to Roam in Their New Home“, Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1985.
“Algonquin Park/Michigan Moose Transfer 1985“, Algonquin Provincial Park (Canada) Official Website.
John Robinson, “The Great Michigan Moose Transfer of 1985“, 99.1 WFMK, April 28, 2020.