An Arctic Detour: Hanging with Moose
While road-tripping across northern Sweden with her parents, writer and photographer Lola Akinmade stops by a moose farm a few kilometers from the Arctic Circle.
“Can you see them?” whispers Anna-Carin as we make our way through tall blades of yellowish green grass. We wonder what she’s looking at. All we see is grass. Instinctively, she knows where to look for the three-month old twin calves, Klara and Märta.
We finally reach the calves which are huddled together. One of them, Klara, gets up and walks up to Anna-Carin, nuzzling her. “Ida’s their mother,” Anna-Carin points out to a female moose (known as a cow) grazing a hundred or so feet away. “Ida’s only two years old and too inexperienced to raise her babies so they’re mine now,” she adds, gently stroking the baby. “I’ve had to adopt and feed them like my own.”
For hours, we’d tried fruitlessly to spot wild älg (moose in Swedish) as we drove along E10 en route to the Arctic Circle. Sightings are relatively rare, and around northern Sweden, wild moose are known to occasionally dart out into traffic, quite akin to deer freezing in car headlights in the U.S. Often when a moose is spotted, it’s too late for the driver. So when we saw a billboard pointing to the Arctic Moose Farm two kilometers north of Överkalix, we knew we found a safe way to catch a glimpse.
A sharp right turn later and we would come face to face with Franz – a four-year-old bull who easily towered over my husband’s 6’3″ frame.
Considered the oldest deer in the world, moose can grow over six feet tall, weigh up to a ton, and live for up to 20 years. I was immediately dwarfed by the imposing animal and tried to remind myself that they were just overtly large docile, plant-eating creatures. My mom on the other hand froze 20 feet from the wooden fence and didn’t move from that spot the rest of our visit.
The moose farm was started in 2006 by Jörgen Rokka after he was enthralled by a lecture given by a Jämtland moose farmer. Intrigued, he converted his 20 acre farmland in Långviksudden into an open-range farm called “Pereliasa.” Its name comes from a very old Swedish dialect called “Överkalixmål” and “Pereliasa” actually translates to “Per Eliasson” in modern day Swedish. Per Eliasson was one of the very first residents of the village. The farmhouse located on the property was built in 1938 and currently is home to five moose: Two bulls, Franz and Arthur, and three cows, Lydia, Elin, and Ida, all named after people who’ve lived at Pereliasa.
After feeding Franz ripe bananas through wooden barriers as a peace offering, we followed Anna-Carin through the gates to wander freely with the moose and find Ida’s newborn calves in the yellowish green brush.
(Refusing to believe she would not be eaten by the naturally herbivorous animals, mom remained frozen on the same spot while my husband, dad, and I followed Anna-Carin into Franz’ backyard.)
There, we found the second bull, Arthur. Currently two years old, Arthur was found orphaned in the forests surrounding Överkalix, adopted, and brought to join the others on the farm.
“They grow so fast,” says Anna-Carin as she continues stroking Klara’s reddish brown fur. By their first year, male moose are already sexually mature. For cows, it’s usually around two years of age. The normal gestation period for a cow is eight months, after which a calf or twin calves are born. A calf can weigh up to 30 pounds at birth and in just three to four months, can easily double or even triple in weight.
Anna-Carin bends low to give Klara a kiss and a quick rub before leading us back towards the farmhouse. As we turn to leave, I hear high-pitched grunts coming from behind.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
“I think they’re crying after you,” I tell her.
“I know,” she softly says, grinning proudly like any mother would.
Getting There: The farm operates seasonally and is best visited during the summer months of June, July, and August. Due to the relatively remote location of the farm, reservations are usually recommended and can be made by contacting Jörgen or Anna-Carin through their website www.arcticmoosefarm.se.
Photos: Lola Akinmade