By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,374)
“The moose is the largest single attraction to this Park,” said Curtis Johnson, Superintendent, of the Maine Wildlife Park, today at the popular Park located in Gray. “We get countless telephone calls from people wanting to know if we have a moose here. When we tell them we have four, they say they’ll be over.” Out-of-staters and vacationers especially seek them out said Johnson. “Lobsters and moose. That’s what vacationers want when they come to Maine,” said Johnson.,
Moose are getting harder and harder to find. They don’t live very long in the wild even though their only predator in Maine anymore is the hunter. Wolves used to be their major predator. “George” the above eleven (11) year old moose is the longest living moose at the Park, which originally was a popular pheasant Park. George and a sister were brought to the
Park from northern Maine because they were abandoned according to Pam Richardson, a long-time Park employee. His sister was released back into the wild because she overcame irritanle bower syndrome – a condition that is caused by an animal abandoned by its mother. The mother is then unable to nurse it or teach it what a moose healthy-diet is.
Moose are extremely difficult to raise in captivity. They require lots of space (they have three (3) acres in Gray) and lots of browse. Browse is tree limbs in bloom that helps to balance moose diets and give them what they would
get in the wild. Interns working at the Park devote a substantial amount of time cutting tree limbs for this purpose. Courtney Johnson, (no relation to Curtis) said that the Gray Park is one of a handful in this country committed to the extra expense and time involved in sheltering moose.
The pie-bold buck pictured above left probably would not survive in the wild. The buck has a genetic condition that makes him mottled leaving him no camaflogue in the wild. They often have curved spines and malformed legs. This one had other health issues that needed to be addressed as well. When he is older, Park staff will integrate the still nameless pie bold into the herd of deer in a nearby pen. That herd of deer consists of seven (7) deer. Although those deer have lived their entire lives in captivity at the Park, only two (2) of them are at all friendly to humans. A testament to how strongly the ‘call of the wild” is instilled into deer. And a reason why it is easier to release some deer back into the wild than might be anticipated according to Johnson.
“If you care, leave them there,” said Superintendent Johnson emphasized. “The truth of that statement is so true. Untrained human interaction with wild animals almost never is successful.” The Park does not “humanize” its animals by giving them names, although that doesn’t mean that staff doesn’t have their pet names for some of them -i.e. “George” above left. The Park does not want to humanize wild animals and encourage them to become pets said Superintendent Johnson. He also clarified that this Park is not a “rehab” facility.
“There’s a lot more to this all of this than you can see from at the front gate,” said Pam Richardson, as she greeted Rudder in her cage at the Park. “These people are so devoted to the care of these animals. It’s absolutely amazing,” said Charlena Walker, a nine (9) year volunteer at the Park. “I can’t say enough good things about the care these animals get from the staff and volunteers here.”
“George is an ambassador for Maine wildlife, giving kids and families an opportunity to explore real Maine moose,” said State Senator Anne Haskell (D) from District 28. “I’ve watched George over the years and he continues to thrill.”
For more information, please visit www.mainewildlifepark.com The Park also hosts daily special events that are well worth checking out regularly. The Maine Wildlife Park is owned and operated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). The Park is located at 56 Game Farm Road, Gray.