'Forever Locked Moose' visiting Flume Gorge


Educational exhibit shares story of animals locked in endless battle



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Closeup of Locked Moose Exhibit at the Flume Gorge. (Credit: Greg Keeler / Franconia Notch State Park) (click for larger version)
July 13, 2011
By KHELA KUPIEC

kkupiec@salmonpress.com

LITTLETON— For two bull moose in Gile State Forest their fight to the finish meant death in the end, but the story they left behind lives on.

In the fall of 2003, Ray Deragon of New London, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, came across the pair's remains in the Springfield forest – they had died weeks earlier and their antlers were still locked as they were when the animals died, according to a press release. Deragon knew he had a unique find and he called the New Hampshire Fish and Game, which sent John Wimsatt, then a field conservation officer, to investigate.

"We get all sorts of wildlife calls … but to find two big, mature bulls like that was an extraordinarily rare event," said Wimsatt, now a Fish and Game conservation officer with the rank of captain. "It was an exceptional thing to be able to go into the woods to see."

Wimsatt said he approached Deragon and told him something educational needed to be done with the remains, and from there The New Hampshire Locked Moose Antler Project, or Forever Locked, was born.

After the Conservation Officers Relief Association helped get a fundraising effort underway, the project, of which Wimsatt is president, was established and in 2005 the moose remains were brought to Mark Dufresne of Nature's Reflections Taxidermy of Gray, Maine.

Without untangling the antlers, which were still attached to the skulls, Dufresne created the life-like, full-body re-creation of the battle, capturing a snapshot of the two in an endless struggle – muscles tensed, hooves planted, heads bent and mouths in a grimace.

"It makes me want to cry," said Christie Farber of Defuniak Springs, Fla., who was vacationing in the area and visiting the visitors center Monday. "I think [the moose is] an awesome animal and it's unfortunate it had to come to this," she said gesturing to the display, "But nature is nature, and it is what it is."

Wimsatt stressed that not only is it a magnificent taxidermy display, it also is an educational exhibit that teaches the importance of habitats for large animal and managing a healthy moose herd in the state.

For some people who have never seen a moose in person – dead or alive – the exhibit is an awing experience.

"I'm just getting over how big they are," said Solange Coughlin of Gainsville, Fla., who also was visiting the facility for the day.

Since its creation, the "Forever Locked Moose" exhibit has traveled around New England, most recently putting in an appearance at "Blessing of the Bikes" in Colebrook, N.H., before arriving at the Flume Gorge center were it will stay through the end of August. Wimsatt says after that it will be headed to the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, Vt.

All donations from the public and the fees charged for displaying the exhibit go toward upkeep of the moose, including insurance and travel, according to Bryan Flagg, a Forever Locked board member. But any amount above what is needed for the exhibit is used for scholarships or donated for the purchase of conservation land for public use.

For example, Wismatt said the project was able to make $1,000 contributions to the restoration of Barry Conservation Camp in Berlin and the Black Mountain conservation project.

The Flume Gorge center's new exhibit has temporarily replaced Max the life-sized stuffed moose, who usually greets visitors to the center but is currently "living" at White Mountain Attractions, according to Greg Keeler, Marketing director for Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch State Park.

Fans of Max are "not to worry, he'll be back," said Keeler, "But we're very happy to have these [moose] in the meantime."

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