Joanna Ennis photo

Moose can stand up to seven feet tall, weigh more than 1,000 pounds and they number between 60,000 and 70,000 in Maine. So you would think sightings would be common. But the largest member of the deer family is a tough animal to locate.

If you ask pretty much anyone where to find a moose in Maine, the advice will be “go north” and “Moosehead Lake.” Not that moose can’t be found in central and southern areas of the state. Moose have been seen galumphing down streets in Lewiston and Auburn as well as a recent sighting in Lewiston’s Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary.

But the general wisdom on how to see a moose is to head north. Lee Kantar is a moose biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He’s been studying moose “24/7” for 15 years, tracking their health and overseeing the annual moose hunt.

Hands down, Kantar said, “the further north you go, or at least going into the bigger woods behind the checkpoints in the north Maine woods, are the better places to see moose.”

Also, the time of year is crucial to increasing your chances of seeing a moose. Moose are active, to varying degrees, all year. However, during the winter, moose don’t range far, making them more difficult to see.

“If a moose is not going anywhere and you have to go to the moose, that makes it a challenge,” Kantar said.


Once the snow melts, moose become more mobile. Not more photogenic, just more mobile. Kantar warns that in the early spring, “They don’t look very pretty because most moose have some damage to their coat from winter tick.”

Kantar suggests the summer months and into the fall for best moose viewing. During the summer moose grow out their summer coat and in the fall, during breeding season, moose become more active and bulls have full-sized antlers.

Here are some Maine moose-spotting tips:

Courtesy of Lee Kantar


The summer is a good time to see moose in lakes and ponds that have shallow areas with aquatic vegetation. Moose require a lot of sodium, which they get from eating aquatic plants like pondweed, water lily and from naturally occurring mineral deposits.

Moose gravitate to wet areas surrounded by woods, where they can remain inconspicuous, according to Kantar.


“A lake that has a big circle that doesn’t really have any edge to it, that would not be as good as a lake that’s got all kinds of nooks and crannies and coves and hidden places that a moose can hang out in without getting too disturbed,” Kantar said.

Moose can also be found in a variety of slow moving Maine rivers including the Allagash, the St. John and the west branch of the Penobscot.

Amanda DeMusz photo


However, “moose aren’t just in the water,” Kantar said. “They actually use the woods quite a bit, especially when it’s getting hot in the summertime because of the shade and being able to lay their bellies out on the cool soil.”

To find a moose in the woods is a whole other challenge. Generally, when looking for a moose, “any place where you see lots and lots of people is going to make it a lot tougher,” Kantar said.

“I might spend time walking old woods roads and trying to get into an area where I might have a better chance of viewing a moose. Or walking into a wetland area someplace.”


Because the density of a forest can make visibility nearly impossible, Kantar recommends looking for an area that had a recent timber harvest.

Kantar uses Google Earth to scout an area for a recent timber harvest. Once you have a location, Kantar says he tries “to find if I can get up those roads in my vehicle, and maybe find a trail or an old road that might be gated, or something where there’s access.”

Moose are herbivores and eat leaves and twigs of woody plants. During the winter they also eat the bark from willow, aspen, birch, maple, pin cherry and mountain ash trees, as well as the needles from balsam fir. Eating bark is where moose derive their name. It is believed the word “moose” comes from the Algonquin word “moosu” meaning “bark stripper.”

It is important to be mindful of the direction the wind is blowing. “You’re never going to see a moose if you’re walking down some woods road and blowing your scent right at anything that’s in front of you,” Kantar said.

Because of the mineral deficiencies moose develop during the winter, they can sometimes be found along roadways where salt has accumulated in late May or June.

“There’s areas along some roads that get very muddy and can be potential mineral licks or salt licks,” said Kantar. Sometimes it’s runoff from the road itself, sometimes it’s natural occurring areas.”


A bull moose lifts its head out of the water while eating food from a small pond along Route 201 in The Forks. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel file photo


Once you have settled on a spot to wait, try to be as quiet and unassuming as possible.

“You may find a place that looks particularly ‘moosie,’ but the moose is just not there right then because it’s elsewhere and doing something else,” Kantar said.

He suggests blocking out at least one full day and to leave early in the morning as moose are particularly active at dawn and dusk.

To embark on a moose expedition, you will need to be prepared for potential hazards. At the minimum, Kantar recommends binoculars, long pants and a long shirt to protect from ticks and other insects, sun protection, water, weather-appropriate clothing and a navigation method.

Binoculars, in particular, Kantar says, are essential for seeing and respecting the space of a moose.


“I’m scanning that area with my binoculars to find something, maybe it’s a flick of an ear, maybe it’s a movement that tells me there’s an animal there,” Kantar said. “It takes kind of a skill set to develop, seeing something that’s actually out of place that’s actually moving.”

A cow moose and her calf keep a wary eye on passing canoeists on Kidney Pond in Baxter State Park. John Ewing/Portland Press Herald file photo


When you see a moose, give it a wide berth, using binoculars to see it from afar.

“When you change what that animal is doing, change its behavior, that’s not respectful,” Kantar said. “We need to be able to go out there, whether we’re looking at a deer or moose or an eagle, and not burst its bubble.”

Moose can flail their front legs and kick with their rear legs. They can also run up to 35 mph.

“If a moose starts to bulge out its eyes a little bit or pins its ears back or starts to raise its hair, you are way too close,” Kantar said.


People should be wary of protective cows with their calves and give them extra space. Additionally, during the breeding season, bulls grow out their antlers and get a bit more aggressive.

That said, unless under duress, moose don’t tend to engage with humans.

Lee Kantar photo


Even by following all of his advice, Kantar notes there is no guarantee you’ll find a moose; it requires patience, planning, research and a little luck.

If you want to up your chances of seeing a moose even more, various companies offer moose tours or moose safaris. Such tours typically take the participants out into the woods or onto the water to where they are more likely to find a moose.

Val Locke is the guide manager for recreational activities with New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket and leads wildlife tours. According to Locke, seeing a moose is all about timing.

“They just show up when they show up. But our guides know the feeding schedules of the animals. They have a good background knowledge about the moose in general.”

According to Locke, tours don’t always find moose but participants are always amazed when they do. “It’s always an ‘ahh’ moment. They’re very large and everybody always wants to see a moose, but even without seeing a moose some of the watchable wildlife in the area makes it amazing, especially with the views of the backdrop.”

For people venturing on their own to find moose, Locke recommends Sandy Stream Pond or Stumped Pond in Baxter State Park. Both ponds require a short hike to reach their shores.

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