Searching for Bear and Moose in the midnight sun

Everyone we’ve asked about seeing wildlife has said different things. In Norway, we were told that our chances of seeing moose were like 1% as they only come out at dark – and the midnight sun kinda fucks up your chances. They also said our odds of seeing Reindeer were zero to none, apparently we’re unlikely to see wild ones and most of the herded ones get ushered onto the islands for summer pastures.

But after only two days in Sweden, things are looking up. At a gas station a guy spurred up conversation with us after seeing our British number plate. He was a dairy farmer and before he left, Craig pointed to our handmade moose sticker on the rear of Pablo and said we’re here to see these! To which he replied “there’s too many, I hate them”…well that sounded rather promising.

While getting info in Stromsund, a young girl told us how she is only 25 but has seen 15 bears in her life, and she’s never gone looking for them. Her mum, on the other hand hasn’t seen any, and regularly goes out searching for them. Wildlife spotting seems to be a bit like that though, it finds people who aren’t even looking for them, like cigarette smoke always blows towards the non smoker.

En route to the wilderness road we found a forestry track to camp on. We saw two deer and a fox just while sitting in Pablo. Before bed we strolled along the dirt road looking through the dark forest. All of a sudden, we heard a really loud noise, it was like a nasal bark/groan, the sun was right in our eyes, but ahead in the forest I saw an animal run super fast parallel to us, it was dark, and I know it ran a hell of a lot faster than we could. I lost sight of it and we heard the noise again but far in the distance. We were left totally unsure of what it was, the deer we saw earlier were a golden colour, so it was either a different breed, a moose, a bear (which I think is an actual possibility!) Or one of those creepy feral people brought up by animals in a forest and running on all fours.

Along the beginning of the wilderness road, we pulled off to sleep in the forest. As soon as we parked up we could hear tapping all over the van and windows – it was flies. How an earth did they find us so quickly. Craig was cooking with a flipper in one hand and a fly flipper in the other. I was inside with the electric racket and coil smoking away, ready for business. After dinner we took a stroll but were attacked by Mosquitos, possibly the largest ones I’ve ever seen, any patch of skin on show was sucked of its blood.

At 3.30am we woke up to do a moose safari. We drove slowly along dirt roads, and then onto the deserted main road. It was so peculiar being totally light outside at that time. We ended up driving 50km for well over an hour, and saw nothing. Not even a moose sign! Infact I thought a moose sign was coming up, but Craig informed me that unless the moose around here were very tame and let you ride them, then it was probably just a horse sign.

We struggled to get back to sleep and had a lazy day. The lake temperatures in Sweden are actually very inviting compared to Norway’s ice cold ones. So we had a lovely swim and wash and continued driving while scanning the forest. We passed mile upon mile of forest, and beautiful meadows covered in bright pink flowers.

It really was a wilderness road in terms of facility’s, we found one toilet by a fishing lake, it was the most basic pit loo I’ve ever seen. Imagine an empty shed, put a wooden box inside and cut a circle hole out of the top. For decoration and atmosphere, pop a thriving wasps nest on the wall, approximately 15cm from your head.

As we took a turn off to a waterfall, the road got to a T junction, and the opposite direction to where we were driving had a sign saying it was ‘bear road’ – it led all the way back to Stromsund and was a dirt track. We decided to drive some of it. We passed a tiny village of about half a dozen houses, and then we saw the reason why we hadn’t seen any moose. One barn was covered in moose racks! So many so, that he had started using his other barn to display them too. We counted 48 in total… I almost felt like knocking on his door “hi there, just wondering if there’s any moose left and if so where the hell can I find them?”.

Running out of options we took a skidoo track steeply uphill, and decided to stay the night. It’s totally wonky, BUT the area has loads of moose prints and droppings! We took a stroll and noticed lots of plastic, orange, warning strips tied onto trees, with a moose symbol and ‘Algjakt’ ‘Skogma’ written on them, no idea what it meant though…if you do, let me know!

We took another night drive to search for Moose – this time at 2.30am. First though, we hiked up the hill by our camping area for the fourth time. Panoramic views across meadows, fields and forest…and not even a rustle in the trees. The sky was already light and the sun slowly rising. We drove for nearly 2 hours along dirt roads, really into the wild. All we saw was 3 hares, but I’m pretty sure it was the same one. So that’s it, both shattered and retiring from searching for moose in the early morning. At least we saw a lovely sunrise, the pine trees all glowed and a pink cloud wrapped around the peak of a nearby mountain.

Just to piss me off even more, Craig was flipping horseflies while I made breakfast. One bounced off the wall and fell right into my porridge flapping away like a newborn bird.

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