At 4-months-old, Willow the Moose calf is growing fast. Keepers at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, near Eatonville, Washington, estimate she weighs between 120 and 130 pounds. Her legs are still long and spindly, but her body is filling out.
Willow is nearly weaned from her mother’s milk and is growing more independent each day.
She moves farther away from mom, Connie, in search of the foliage that makes up the bulk of her herbivore diet. She also has a hearty appreciation for the grain that keepers leave out to supplement the browse (branches and leaves) moose like to munch on.
She still has a quite a bit of growing to do. An adult female moose can weigh around 800 pounds.
The young moose was a most special surprise for Northwest Trek staff in 2015. She was born on July 17, the wildlife park’s 40th birthday. ZooBorns shared news of her birth in an article from early September: "First Moose Born in Fifteen Years at Northwest Trek"
Photo Credits: Ingrid Barrentine / Northwest Trek
Willow’s name was chosen by members of the public who gave it the most votes from a slate of prospective names selected by wildlife park keepers.
Every visit to Northwest Trek includes a 50-minute, narrated tour of the 435-acre Free-Roaming Area, which is home to Willow and her mom, Connie; two other moose, Ellis and Nancy; plus herds of American bison and majestic Roosevelt Elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, a pair of trumpeter swans and other animals.
In addition to the chance to see Willow during the tram tour of the Free-Roaming Area, visitors also can walk forested pathways past natural exhibits with many other native Northwest animals, including black and grizzly bears, wolves, foxes, Canada lynx, bobcats, beavers, river otters, owls – and, fittingly this week, a turkey vulture.
She is tough and resilient and as beautiful as an integral piece of the Northwest landscape. So it’s not surprising that members of the public picked "Willow" as the name for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park’s 7-week-old moose calf.
Photo Credits: Oona Copperhill/Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
Willow is the first moose born at the 725-acre wildlife park near Eatonville, Washington, in 15 years, and she arrived as a very special delivery on July 17 – Northwest Trek’s 40th birthday.
Staff members nominated three Northwest-themed names for the calf: Willow, Lily and Aspen. The public chose Willow through voting in an online survey over the last month.
Willow’s mother, Connie, was named in honor of Northwest Trek co-founder Connie Hellyer. Her father, Ellis, was named in memory of Dave Ellis, a longtime deputy director of the wildlife park.
One other adult moose, Nancy, also wanders the 435-acre Free-Roaming Area at Northwest Trek. The moose are often visible to members of the public as visitors ride trams for a narrated tour of the forests and meadows.
Anyone visiting Northwest Trek is up for a possible peek at the moose family, as well as up-close views of other animals in the Free-Roaming Area, which is home to American bison, Roosevelt elk, deer, and bighorn sheep. And, of course, there also are black and grizzly bears, gray wolves, foxes, Canada lynx, bobcats, coyotes, a cougar, beavers, a river otter, fishers, badgers, skunks, raccoons, owls and other animals in natural exhibits along paved pathways in the main area of the wildlife park.
In the Free-Roaming Area, Willow continues to thrive, Northwest Trek Deputy Director Alan Varsik said, “She is still nursing and also sampling browse, such as willow and maple cuttings, and she’s starting to show a little more independence,” he said. “Connie is taking the occasional time out, where she leaves Willow for a brief period of time. Under the watchful eye of Connie, Willow has also had positive encounters with our other moose.”
The moose (alces alces) is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males. They typically inhabit boreal and mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to subarctic climates. Unlike most other deer species, moose prefer to be solitary and do not form herds.
Although generally slow-moving and sedentary, moose can become aggressive and move surprisingly quickly if angered or startled. Their mating season in the autumn can lead to spectacular fights between rivaling males.
The moose is a herbivore and is capable of consuming many types of plant or fruit. Much of a moose’s energy is derived from terrestrial vegetation, mainly consisting of forbs and other non-grasses, and fresh shoots from trees such as willow and birch.
Moose lack upper front teeth, but they have eight sharp incisors on the lower jaw. They also have a tough tongue, lips and gums, which aid in the eating of woody vegetation. A moose’s upper lip is also very sensitive, to help distinguish between fresh shoots and harder twigs. Their lip is also prehensile, for grasping their food.
Moose are excellent swimmers and are known to wade in search of aquatic plants. Moose are known to dive underwater, as well, to reach plants on lake bottoms. Their complex snout allows such a feat; it is equipped with fatty pads and muscles that close the nostrils when exposed to water pressure.
Although moose rarely gather in groups, there may be several in close proximity during the mating season (September and October). Females have an eight-month gestation period, usually bearing one calf. Newborn moose have fur with a reddish hue, which is a contrast to the brown appearance of an adult. The young will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born. The life span of an average moose is about 15-25 years.
Here's a peek behind the scenes at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park: two male Striped Skunk kits were born this summer! The little ones will stay in quarantine for about a month before going out on exhibit, just to make sure they stay healthy during their early development.
Photo credits: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
Found commonly throughout North America, Striped Skunks are born hairless and with closed eyes. They open their eyes at around 22 days old, and nurse for about eight weeks. Young Skunks can spray at just eight days old. The awful-smelling secretion comes from glands under the tail, which are often removed in captivity to de-scent the animal. These omnivores are crepuscular (mostly active at dawn and dusk), and forage for a wide range of food: from plants to insects, eggs, small reptiles, and rodents. Their main predators are Great Horned Owls, which, unsurprisingly, have a very poor sense of smell.
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, Washington recently welcomed a rescued baby Virginia Opossum. Hand-raised, the tame animal will join the park's Animal Trailside Encounters team, which allows visitors to get up close and personal with local wildlife handled by a trained keeper.
The Virginia Opossum is the only North American marsupial that lives north of Mexico. When frightened, these animals often pretend to be dead (i.e. playing possum) so curious predators lose interest in them. While this defense mechanism seems to be involuntary, don't be fooled into thinking Virginia Opossums are defenseless: they can also be quite feisty when cornered!
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Washington just helped release over 1,200 endangered Oregon spotted frogs into the wild! They reared some of the endangered frogs from tiny tadpoles to full-fledged frogs, giving them a head start on survival.
The native amphibian has lost ground to habitat loss from draining and development, disease and the introduction of invasive species such as the American bullfrog, and have been decimated by 80-90%.
Oregon spotted frogs are highly aquatic.They are found in or near permanent still water such as lakes, ponds, springs, marshes and the grassy margins of slow-moving streams.
Before the frogs were released into the wild on October 7, each was weighed and measured at Northwest Trek. The frogs were released in the Dailman Lake area at Fort Lewis. The protected site contains one of the largest relatively intact wetlands remaining in the Puget Lowlands. State biologists will be able to track the Oregon spotted frogs using their ID tags. Their life expectancy in the wild is approximately 5-8 years.