Be still. Don’t make a sound. You’ve been stalking here too long to ruin it now. You can hear rustling in the bracken. Is it a deer? Or could you be the one who finally solves the mystery once and for all?
Stories about the moose of Fiordland have been circulating ever since it was reported that a moose was shot in the 1970s. The hunt for these elusive creatures has continued ever since.
Moose were first released in Fiordland in 1910 but weren’t allowed to be shot until 1923, when it was deemed that there were enough of them available for game. The first photograph was taken that year, but the first licensed kill didn’t occur until 1929. The moose remained well hidden for decades after and it wasn’t until the 1950s when a spate of shootings and sightings brought them back into the limelight.
Moose hunter Ken Tustin, a 67-year-old biologist, began putting cameras in the bush in 1994 in the hope of photographing descendants of the North American moose. Over the years he has had many close calls, such as castoff antlers; footprints; and the best evidence yet – hair samples that were determined to be moose by DNA analysis in 2000 and 2002.
The legend surrounding the lost moose of Fiordland has been inflated in recent years with faked video footage and doctored photos. The legend has gained so much traction that NZ clothing brand Hallenstein’s even offered a $100,000 reward last year for a legitimate photo of the moose.
Timeline of sightings and locations:
With so many false accounts floating around, it is easy to believe that a sighting could be possible. The confirmed accounts tell a different story:
1910 -In two separate introductions 10 Moose were released at Supper Cove in Dusky Sound.
1952 -Confirmed sighting of a Fiordland moose by Robin Francis Smith, who photographed a moose cow at Herrick Creek
1953– Fred Stewardson (78), of Hikurangi, in Northland, only recently released photos he had taken on a hunting trip to Wet Jacket Arm in 1953 after his best friend and mentor swore him to secrecy fearing the moose would be shot by hunters if the photographs were revealed at the time.
After the 50’s, moose melted back into the bush and were thought to have become extinct in the area. Introduced red deer were thought to outcompete them for food, probably keeping their numbers well down. But in the early 1970s a hunter claimed to have shot a bull and seen a cow and her calf.
Moose chasers prepare: plan your adventure
Before you find yourself crouching in dense forest, be sure to prepare for your trip in advance.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Moose feed on aquatics early in the morning and at dusk, so look for tracks near water and bogs.
- Approach bogs and ponds from downwind, even if you don’t see the moose yet. Though this tip holds true for most any animal you want to spot, moose have a very sensitive sense of smell, and they will flee before you even see them.
- Map your area. The Fiordland National Park is 12,500 km² in size and contains sheer cliff drops and dense forest. Don’t be the next thing people have to go hunting for. Stick to the tracks and make sure someone knows where you are. Pack for the conditions. Bring sufficient food and water.
Even if you don’t solve the mystery, you will find yourself immersed in New Zealand’s finest scenery. Learn more about the best tracks to lead you on your quest and how to reach them.