The Heart of New England
Moose on the Loose:
Bennington, Vermont's Moose Festival
By Lorianne DiSabato

It's a good thing moose aren't typically gregarious since most of aren't sure
what to call a bunch of them. If one walking-like-an-Egyptian creature is
dubbed King Moose Uncommon, would a pair be Royal Meese, or Mooses, or

Bullwinkle's normally solitary ways notwithstanding, the moose in
Bennington, VT are behaving in an entirely ungulate fashion these days,
congregating like cattle. Since moose are at the top of every out-of-town
visitors "must see" list, I'm glad to know there's a colorful herd stationed in
Vermont these days.  Bennington doesn't always have painted moose dotting
its downtown: these colorful sculptures are part of Moosefe st, an ongoing arts
outreach and fundraising program.

Everyone who visits me in New Hampshire
mentions the moose crossing signs that
adorn our highways: Are there really huge
antlered creatures in these woods, and how
do can we go about spotting some? Yes,
Virginia, we have moose in northern
New England, and yes, I've seen them
on several occasions here in
New Hampshire (albeit not in Keene
proper). But moose generally aren't
the kind of animal you can see on demand:
moose tend to appear when you least
expect them, so if you go looking
for the shy and awkward creatures,
odds are good that you'll be disappointed.

I was enamored with moose long before I moved to New Hampshire, mainly
because moose aren't found where I grew up. White-tailed deer abound in all
parts of Ohio, but moose are circumpolar creatures found in only the
northernmost portions of the Northern Hemisphere. Because moose were an
"exotic" creature I never saw when I was growing up, when I moved to New
England I began collecting various and sundry items emblazoned with their
image: a flannel sleep shirt, a set of placemats, not one but two stuffed
animals, etc.

In the early '90s, I watched the TV series Northern Exposure partly because I
enjoyed its quirky characters and witty humor and partly because a moose
figured prominently in the show's opening credits. Just as I'd as a child
referred to Green Acres as "the pig show" because I was a loyal fan of Arnold
the Pig, I still to this day refer to Northern Exposure as "the moose show."
Given my moosey proclivities, then, you can imagine my delight upon
discovering the streets of downtown Bennington adorned with fancifully
painted life-size moose sculptures.

When it comes to loving moose, it seems I'm not alone. Maybe it's their
gangling awkwardness that makes them so endearing, or maybe it's precisely
their unpredictability, the fact you never quite know when or where you'll see
your first (or the next) one. Truth be told, the first two moose (or meese, or
moosi) I ever saw were both dead: years ago while driving back to Boston
from New Hampshire's White Mountains, I saw two of the creatures tied to the
back of a pickup truck, proof of a remarkably good day's hunting.

Every year here in New Hampshire there is a lottery for moose hunt permits,
the number of hunters outnumbering the number of moose to be culled. That
two buddies both landed permits and moose is a sign of remarkable luck...for
the hunters at least. I'm sure those two late Bullwinkles felt noticeably less

Henry David Thoreau was both an outspoken critic of moose hunting and a
lifelong moose afficionado. There are no moose in Concord, MA, so the second
of Thoreau's three trips to Maine was an actual moose hunt where Thoreau
was unarmed and his companions were not. Thoreau's party bagged a female
moose, and Thoreau lamented the butchering of "God's own cattle"...but he
took care to closely observe and measure the creature, figuring like a true
scientist that the opportunity to examine a massive moose cadaver was a
learning experience he'd never forget.

Apparently, Thoreau never did forget that moose: on his deathbed, Thoreau's
final words were "moose" and "Indian," two iconic symbols of the wilderness
he so loved. Moose are iconic, inhabiting wild spaces that most folks visit only
on vacation or in dreams. Even if you live among moose, there's something
about their silent arrival and gangly ways that never fails to capture your
imagination: although nobly impressive in size, they always seem goofy in
demeanor, cartoon caricatures in fur coats.

Given the various things moose represent
in our human imagination--untouched
wilderness, the unpredictability of the
hunt, the goofy regalness of a creature
whose head and antlers woefully outsize
its spindly legs--it's natural and fitting
that Bennington would choose Bullwinkle
and Friends as a three-dimensional canvas
for local artists' creative impulses. So on
your next drive through Bennington, VT,
make sure you visit these merry band
of moosies, that ultimately being my
favored term for a gang of these ganglies.

These artful moose are on the loose
on the streets of Bennington until October;
for additional information, see the
Moosefest (

About the author: Lorianne DiSabato, who lives in Keene, NH, is an adjunct
professor of English at Keene State College.  This story was excerpted from her
blog about her life in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire,
Bennington, Vermont Moose Fest
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