Last weekend I bushwhacked to Norton Peak through conservation-easement lands in the northeastern Adirondacks. I’ve taken hundreds of hikes in the park, but none like this.
From a parking area on Standish Road, I started up a faint path that follows an overgrown logging road and soon came across a big pile of moose scat. And then another. And another. And another.
I began keeping count. In a half-mile, I saw 31 piles of scat. At that point, I left the path to head up the mountain. I didn’t see any more moose scat until just below the summit. And then they were everywhere. I counted 37 piles as I explored the summit (looking for views, not poop).
I had read that this region—dubbed the Sable Highlands—has the largest concentration of moose in the Adirondacks, but I still was astounded by the abundance of scat. I rarely see moose scat on my hikes. If I do, it’s usually just one or two piles. Deer scat is much more common.
It’s easy to tell moose scat from deer scat. Moose pellets are substantially larger, about the size and shape of grapes. Deer pellets are about the size of black beans.
The Sable Highlands comprise 85,450 acres owned by Chateaugay Woodlands LLC. All but a thousand acres are protected by a conservation easement held by New York State. The easement agreement allows public recreation on some of the lands, including Norton Peak.
David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, offered two reasons for the abundance of moose in the Sable Highlands. First, they like to browse on the brush and young trees that spring up after logging. Second, they have occupied the region longer than other parts of the Adirondacks. Moose vanished from the state in the 1800s but began migrating to the northeastern Adirondacks from Vermont and Canada in the late 20th century.
DEC estimates there are now 400 to 500 of the large ungulates in the North Country. Winchell said the Chazy Highlands, just east of the Sable Highlands, also harbor a lot of moose. Smaller populations of moose exist in the Santa Clara region, the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area, the Moose River Plains, and Lake Desolation State Forest (near the park’s southern border).
Incidentally, Norton Peak has some great views. Just be careful where you step.