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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Searching for the Grand Canyon Moose

One of the perks of having a blog is being able to take a peek at my audience. No, I don't have a webcam view into each of your homes, it's more a general outline of the individuals who visit my site, purposely or otherwise.

Blogger gives me a rundown that includes daily hits (number of readers), which posts are being read and the electronic trail they followed to get there. Many of you click a link on Facebook, Twitter or Flipboard; I expect to see that since that's where I post my latest entries. Some of you, bless your souls, punch in the actual blog name to check in on the latest goings on here (I really, REALLY appreciate your dedication!) Blogger even supplies a map of the world with green shaded areas that symbolize where the viewers are located, darker green indicating higher numbers. I always get nervous when Russia—land of the infamous hackers—starts to darken. To be clear, it doesn't tell me who you are, just generalities. Blogger hasn't attained NSA status just yet.

"Anasazi" a sculpture in front of the Visitor's
Center at Mesa Verde National Park.
 The sculptor, Edward J. Fraughton,  contacted me for
 permission to use it in a book about his work.
The most interesting category by far (at least to me) is the "Search Keywords" section. It ranges from the expected (camping in Death Valley) to the bizarre (good things always to copy) WTH? I enable this to some degree; I enter keywords with each post, hoping to catch a reader that's searching for a particular park or trail. The blog photos often pop up on image searches too: In one instance an artist found a photo we took of his sculpture. He liked it so much he asked permission to use it in a book he was publishing. Pretty cool.

A keyword search that popped up a couple years ago made me laugh out loud: "Is there a moose in Grand Canyon?" The idea of an 800 lb bull moose tottering along the edge of the Grand Canyon just struck me as funny (and a dangerous prospect for those rafters down below). But then it happened again. And again. Just yesterday, those words appeared for at least the twentieth time.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the hits no matter where they come from and even more, the curiosity about nature it displays. But since the question has been asked so often I thought I'd take the time to answer.


Are there moose in Grand Canyon National Park?

In a word: No. (Unless you count the husky guy that offered to take our picture at the Angel's Landing overlook last time we were there.)

Here's why:

It all has to do with habitat. Moose get overheated when the temperature climbs above 60F; they also like to take long, languorous dips in lakes and streams when they start to feel a case of the vapors coming on. The wintertime temps in the park can get plenty cold on the rim, but all the water is down deep in the canyon. During the summer moose would swoon as the temperatures rise to the 80s on the rim and over 100F at the bottom, where the river runs swiftly and surprisingly cold.

An Alaskan moose enjoys lunch in a beaver pond.
Denali National Park
Moose need to eat a lot of vegetation to keep their moose-like proportions; they browse on high grasses and tree leaves because it's hard for them to lower those giant heads to the ground. Their long gangly legs terminate in broad plate-like hooves that help to keep them from sinking in the mud and snow, two things not normally found in the canyon. Moose are equally at home in water and land; they are good swimmers and  enjoy eating aquatic plants, staying submerged for up to 30 seconds while doing so. Another interesting moose fact I ran across: They can store up to 100 lbs of food in their stomachs. Pretty impressive.


North American moose live throughout Alaska and Canada and in the northern-most states in the lower 48 (Washington, Idaho, Montana, parts of the Rocky Mountain range down to Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, New England, etc.). They most recently have taken hold as far south as Utah, but only in the cooler northern-most regions there. I don't think they often go down to check out Arches, so don't expect to run into them at the Southwestern Art exhibit in Moab.

Mark displaying the international sign for "No Moose Down There."
North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

Armed with these facts now, when you visit the Grand Canyon you won't be the least surprised that moose are absent. Both rims have areas with trees and some sparse grassland but it's dry, scrubby pine forest, not ideal if you're a moose. Surrounding the park are vast stretches of barren desert. Water is scarce, so scarce in fact that water rationing is a way of life on the northern Kaibab plains. The most expensive pay shower I ever took was in a campground on the North Rim. Five dollars for three minutes. No cheating and adding quarters once you get started: If you couldn't finish in three minutes you were stuck walking around with soap in your eyes. The toilets were composting, no sense in flushing all that good water away. My point being, moose would be dehydrated wrecks out there, nowhere to drink, nothing to eat and nowhere to cool off. If they managed to survive a hike (or fall) into the canyon, it would be so hot they would just wither away.

The Grand Canyon Rim. Not a good habitat for moose, but a great place for humans to visit.

I have no doubt there will be more inquiries about moose in the Grand Canyon in the future. I picture a school kid, maybe from one of the southern states, about to leave on his first trip west. Hoping to cram in all the sights he's always dreamed about, he punches into the search bar the two things he really wants to see: A moose and the Grand Canyon. I hope this page pops up next time and is helpful to explain why they aren't going to be in the same place.

I hope you're not too disappointed kid. But hey, the Grand Canyon is pretty cool, you'll like it. Just tell your parents the next trip out you need to hit Yellowstone. They've got some mighty big moose up there.

Now I'm off to figure out what those "good things always to copy" could possibly be.

The End.

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Here are some great sources for moose facts. In fact, I used some of them for this post:
http://www.mooseworld.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/moose/
http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/moose1.pdf