Day 7: Deer Lake, Nfld.
On road to Gros Morne National Park,
drivers butt up against moose -- and lose
Saturday, August 12, 2000
Along western Newfoundland's Long Range Mountains, where warning signs for moose are more common than fishing holes, it's nearly impossible to find a ride with someone who does not have a moose story.
Every August, moose by the thousands wander down to the roads and highways to escape the biting flies that take over the region's thick forests in late summer and to create traffic havoc. The giant mammals wander onto roads with such insouciance that just about everyone on the island knows that it is driver beware.
Amos Collier, a tough old fisherman, remembers the early evening when a calf appeared in the path of his old Dodge sedan, which didn't stand a chance in the collision.
"The calf hobbled into the woods," he said in a fisherman's mumble as we headed up the Trans-Canada Highway in his new GMC pickup. "The car didn't move again. The radiator was darned near bent up over the engine."
There never is a contest when it comes to moose and car. Ken Gaudet, a pipe-fitter who picked me up where Amos dropped me on the highway, said he and a group of co-workers smashed into a moose one afternoon when the animals usually are asleep in the woods.
The moose was knocked unconscious for about 30 seconds and then jumped to its feet and trotted into the woods after one of Ken's friends touched it. His rented Chevy Celebrity needed a tow truck.
"They can take just about anything," he said. "I hit one in the antlers once, hunting. It fell to the ground, got up and disappeared."
Although moose are not indigenous to Newfoundland (they were brought to the island in 1904), they are now in such abundance that the government has increased hunting quotas for them and has allowed the hunting season to start during the fall-mating season.
The effect is questionable. Further up the west coast, at the entrance to Newfoundland's renowned Gros Morne National Park, a scoreboard notes 20 "moose accidents" this year in the park. Farther north, on the other side of the Long Range, the town of Roddickton has named itelf "Moose Capital of the World," perhaps to attract more gun-toting predators.
When I told Amos that Toronto had placed painted moose on sidewalks around the city this summer, as part of a "Moose in the City" tourist campaign, he asked if people were allowed to shoot them. He paused for a moment and then laughed.
John Stackhouse's Notes from the Road will appear daily in The Globe and Mail, and on globeandmail.com, until the Labour Day weekend. His conclusions will be published in September.