TUPPER LAKE - Until next summer, visitors of the Wild Center will be greeted with one of the most popular and sought-after animals in the Adirondacks - the moose.
The moose is part of a larger exhibit called "Return of the Wild" that started in July and features animals that have made a comeback in the Adirondacks. The exhibit uses several mediums for reaching its audience, including traditional museum wall exhibits, films and an interactive website.
A good way to experience the exhibit is to relax in the Flammer Theater and watch two short films that focus mainly on moose. "Return of the Wild" and "Scent of a Moose" are only 11 minutes each and feature Adirondack scientists, such as Heidi Kretser of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Curt Stager of Paul Smith's College.
The Great Hall at the Wild Center is now home to this large bull moose, which is part of the current “Return of the Wild” exhibit at the museum.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
In "Return of the Wild," Kretser talks briefly about the decline and rise of moose, touching on topics such as its relationship with both people and the ecosystem. She refers to moose as the "charismatic mega fauna" that rivals the beaver in its ability to change the forest. Moose, she says, can eat 40 pounds of vegetation a day.
The second film focuses on the WCS's project to learn more about Adirondack moose by extracting DNA from their scat. This project used specially trained dogs from the Montana-based organization, "Working Dogs for Conservation" to find moose scat in the wild forests.
After you leave the Flammer Theater, there are several "Return of the Wild" exhibits to browse, featuring beavers, otters and eagles, among others.
One of the most interesting exhibits delves into the interconnectedness of wolves, coyotes, deer and ravens.
One may find it odd that wolves are part of this exhibit because it is generally accepted that they were extirpated from the Adirondacks in the early part of the 20th century, but the Wild Center says this isn't exactly the case.
"After a century away, the wolf gene is back in the Adirondacks," reads the display. "There are many ways wild travels. Its most time-tested method is to move in a complex genetic code. The wolf's code, dressed in coyote clothing, has returned to the Adirondacks."
Recent studies have shown that the Adirondack coyote is actually a combination of western coyote and wolf, likely from Canada.
The Adirondack coyotes travel in packs and take down deer, which is a new behavior for the animals that is assumed to typically prey on smaller animals, the display notes.
Ravens fit into the picture because they scavenge on the deer taken down by coyotes. Both deer and ravens have seen their populations rebound after disappearing. Ravens disappeared because of pesticide usage and deer were once overhunted during an era of heavy logging in the 19th century.
The interconnectedness of nature is one of the main themes that shows itself several times throughout this exhibit and extends beyond the one involving wolves. Beaver, for instance, provide habitat for moose and mergansers, which thrive in marshy areas where dams are often found.
Beaver themselves were nearly wiped out in the 19th century by trappers and loss of habitat. By 1903, there was only one known colony in this region. Today, of course, they can be found throughout the Adirondacks.
Ultimately, that persevering nature is one of the main things the exhibit creators want you to think about.
"Nature can in time heal itself and we need to allow that to happen and save wild places in order for that to happen," said Wild Center Curator David Gross.
While contemplating that, visit the Wild Center's new online webpage (rotw.ez-landingpage.com/) regarding mountain lions in the Adirondacks. It contains video interviews of people who are believers and skeptics, leaving one with the question of whether this secretive and often mysterious animals will be the next animal to return, or if it already has.