Ken & Marg Tustin have been hunting these beasts in Fiordland’s forests since the 1970’s. The creatures are enormously elusive. Of course there are lots of browse, prints, droppings but so far they have managed to come up with a single cast antler, two positive DNA samples and a couple of (unfortunately) poor quality photos of them. Not much return for a lifetime of hard work, but an enormous, ‘Well Done Ken & Marg!’ for such a Herculean effort. They must have spent literally years of their lives living in these remote sodden forests!
For example, when I talked to them in Te Anau in April 2017, Ken had just come back from a six week stint in Herrick Creek, Wet Jacket Arm, Dusky Sound. Like me, Ken is nearly 70! No-one who has never ventured into these wet, cold, dense, dangerous forests (as I have – though much more briefly) has any idea of the effort involved. They could be literally swarming with moose yet it would be unlikely you would ever find one.
Here is a link to an interesting article about them, and the Tustin’s quest: https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/shadow-theatre/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ShadowTheatre (You can read it for free once at least, but you cannot copy and paste any of it).
I suspect the moose are quite widespread throughout Fiordland National Park. I too have found moose sign in very widely separate areas, but they are present at very low rates per square kilometre (almost certainly well less than one) mainly due to the absence of really suitable feed. Nonetheless, it is a huge (largely unexplored, and unexplorable) area, so that there could still even be more than a thousand of them (unlikely), yet no-one would ever see them!
Books by Ken Tustin: ‘A Wild Moose Chas’e & ‘A Nearly Complete History of the Moose in New Zealand’. Films: ‘A Wild Moose Chase and ‘New Zealand’s Fiordland Moose’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yyGCqWhbjI All highly recommended.
Other books about Fiordland Moose: Ken Tinsley ‘Call of the Moose’. Max Curtis ‘Around the River’s Bend’ – this last tells the story of the last successful moose hunt in NZ in the early 1950s. If you are going to become a NZ moose hunter, I suggest you devour all the above material!
This is Jim Mackintosh beside a female moose he shot at Herrick Creek in 1951. Other moose were shot and photographed in the area in 1952, the last certain sightings. Only about a dozen moose have ever been taken in NZ, three of them by the ‘legendary’ Eddie Herrick who spent nearly ten years of his life in toto hunting them!
PS: The type of river flat forest Jim has shot this moose in is quite rare in Fiordland. There is some (for example) across Supper Cove from the hut, at the mouth of the Seaforth River and then along the river to the Henry Burn and here and there all the way up to the Kintail, but it was mostly all well eaten out by moose a long time ago. All the same you can see old broken branches about 8-9′ up where they have been, and they may still use such patches for shelter in dreadful weather. I have stalked through some of it many times. Sometimes you even find a recent print. Considering that it rains on average over 25mm (1″) per day in Fiordland, a print does not last long!
Mostly you would be looking for them in much worse terrain than this, up the steep valleys and along the incredibly precipitous forested sides. PS: Even in this sort of country you would have to be very watchful for the dangers of morasses! PPS: ‘Normally’ when moose hunting you are looking for their ‘signature’ branch breaking at that 8-9′ height, but you should also make yourself aware of their ‘browse line’ at that height – where they have eaten practically every leaf they can eat of their favourite food plants. This is far more ubiquitous, but perhaps less obvious.
PPS: AS I say in the first link below, I believe I had a close encounter with a moose back in April 2017 in the upper Hauroko Burn, yet there was very little available moose browse in the Hauroko, (but plentiful old moose sign), whereas coming down the slope from Lake Roe to Loch Marie for example there were lots of ‘moose plants’, but much less moose sign. Moose are where you find them!