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‘Oh my God, we are dead meat’: NH snowmobilers face off with Maine moose

Posted April 19, 2014, at 2:56 p.m.
Last modified April 23, 2014, at 7:17 p.m.

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Bob Powell squares off with a moose in Jackman, Maine, in this screen grab from a video shot and posted by Janis Powell.
Janis Powell
Bob Powell squares off with a moose in Jackman, Maine, in this screen grab from a video shot and posted by Janis Powell.

Warning: The above video contains strong language.

JACKMAN, Maine — Janis and Bob Powell have been coming to their camp in Jackman from New Hampshire for 11 years to snowmobile in Maine’s backcountry.

Averaging between 3,000 and 5,000 miles a year, Janis Powell said she and her husband are experienced riders and count wildlife sightings among the many bonuses of sledding in the state.

But Friday the Powells went from simply watching moose to a full-on moose encounter that left Bob Powell with a few scrapes and both shaking in their snowmobile boots and sparked an official investigation into the matter.

The Powells reported the event to wardens with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Late Saturday afternoon, Warden Kim Bates, who works out of West Forks, said the incident is under investigation by the warden service, but would not comment beyond that.

“It’s not all that uncommon for moose to come out in the trails when we are riding and trot along ahead of us,” Janis Powell said during a telephone interview from Jackman on Saturday afternoon. “We give them plenty of room, we slow down and sometimes we stop and watch them. It happens all the time; we figured he would just get off the trail.”

In video of the incident, the Powells are seen following the moose on their snowmobiles for 18 seconds before the moose stops and turns.

“We could see he had his hair up, his ears back, head down and was stomping his feet,” Powell said. “We knew something was up.”

“We knew it was a bull moose,” she said. “We could see where his antlers had been when he got up close and personal.”

Janis Powell was riding her own sled behind her husband. The video shows the moose charging Bob Powell as he put his own snowmobile between himself and the moose.

“Let me tell you, a snowmobile is nothing that is going to protect you from a moose,” Janis Powell said.

The moose next charged straight at Bob Powell as he ran toward his wife, cuffing him solidly on his back.

“All he got were a few scrapes,” Janis Powell said. “He was so lucky.”

Meanwhile, Janis Powell was attempting to get to her .380 pistol she carries while riding.

It was a good thing she was not in a quick-draw competition with the moose.

“I had to take off my gloves, unzip my jacket and then unzip the inside pocket of my jacket to get to the pistol,” she said. “All I could think was, ‘Oh my God, we are dead meat.’”

Powell said she did not want to shoot the moose for fear of only wounding the animal and creating a more hostile situation.

“A little baby pistol is no match for a moose,” she said.

So, instead she shot a round away from the moose, hoping the noise would frighten him off.

In the video, the moose looks more amused than frightened by the report from the handgun, but it seemed to do the trick as he called off his attack and trotted off.

Powell insists she and her husband were not “chasing” the moose or antagonizing it in any manner when it suddenly turned around and stood its ground.

“People think we were chasing that moose and we were not,” she said. “We were not going that fast.”

Powell was unsure of their speed at the time, but said when the moose slowed, they slowed their machines.

“People who know us and who know about riding the trails will get it,” Janis Powell said. “We were definitely not chasing the moose. We don’t do that.”

Saturday, Janis posted an edited version of the video that did not include the 18-second prelude to the encounter after receiving what she said were harassing messages and comments. That evening she put the extended version back on YouTube, noting, “people have started to comment that we’re trying to hide things on purpose. That’s not true; we have nothing to hide. I edited this video earlier because it was clear that a lot of people have no idea at all what they are watching, were completely misinterpreting it, and were very rude to us as a result.”

In hindsight, Powell said she could see how people could interpret their actions as chasing or harassing the moose and that is why she removed the original video and replaced it with the edited version.

“Now people think we have something to hide,” she said. “We have nothing to hide — if we did, would we have called the wardens right away and posted this on the Internet?”

The entire incident lasted about two minutes, Janis Powell said, and left she and her husband in shock.

After the moose left, they examined the trail and noted spots of blood and a dozen or so fully engorged ticks, she said.

“It had to be a sickly moose,” Janis Powell said. “If you look at the video it looks kind if mangy and had to be infested with ticks.”

That being the case, the warden to whom the Powells reported the incident said the moose was likely agitated long before they showed up.

This is not the first man-versus-moose incident caught on camera this year.

In February, a wildlife biologist went a few rounds with a baby moose he had just released from tagging.

And later that month, a video of a man not in Maine shooting a moose with a handgun after the moose charged him sparked controversy from people who believed he provoked the attack.

While Friday’s ride marked the Powell’s swan — or moose, as the case may be — song for the season, Janis said they will certainly be back next year.

“This is something we will be talking about for years to come,” she said.

Knowing they did nothing wrong to provoke the attack, she said they will be a bit more vigilant in the future.

“This will certainly not keep us from riding,” Janis Powell said. “We always kept our distance from wildlife. But one thing is for sure, from now on we will be putting more distance between us.”

 

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