On our last trip to the Swedish Lapland, we heard plenty about the country’s moose, but never had a chance to see them. This time round, by sheer coincidence, we chanced upon a moose park at Dalslands Aktiviteter and found ourselves getting up close and personal to these gentle giants.
These moose, known as the national symbol of Sweden, are fortunately still found all over Sweden, with a healthy population of around 500,000.
“They look big but they’re very affectionate,” said Pontus Gyllenberg, owner of the biggest activity center in Dalsland. Indeed, Thor, the biggest bull moose out of the seven in the protected area, was gently licking Pontus’ hands as he patted him.
Upon Pontus’ arrival, all the moose had stood up, eagerly waiting to be fed. Thor was standing almost at a height of 2.5m, with extremely long and sturdy legs supporting a bulky and beefy body. “A bull moose can grow up to 650kg, which is an enormous weight if you think about it,” explained Pontus.
And because of their weight and their big, bulky horns, these moose can pose a serious danger to drivers in Sweden. “Just the other day, there was a road accident nearby. The driver crashed into a moose and he died immediately.” Accidents and hunting (which is allowed) kill 180,000 of them each fall – which keeps the population at a sustainable level.
I asked Pontus how he knew so much about moose and he replied warmly, “Because I grew up with them.” Since he was kid, Pontus would go hunting with his father. He still goes hunting today and enjoys the sport. Twenty years ago, his father set up Dalslands Aktiviteter, a large activity center that offers everything from ziplining to horse riding and canoeing. Pontus has since helped to run it and it was evident he loved being out and about. In 2005, Pontus rescued Thor from the wild after the animal’s mother died, and brought him back. Slowly he brought in a few other moose and that was how the moose park started.
Here in the moose park, the animals are free to roam among 14 hectares of vast fields. As I warmed up to Thor and the other moose, I knew they were happy living here, surrounded by the warmth and love of Pontus and his family.
Disclaimer: Our visit was made possible by West Sweden Tourism Board but all opinions expressed above are our own.