'Hard to believe': Western Arctic community marvels at moose sighting

Community members in Paulatuk, N.W.T., captured rare images this week of two moose wading in the Arctic Ocean.

Two young bull moose seen wading in the Arctic Ocean near Paulatuk, N.W.T. this week

Moose have been spotted on the tundra before, including at Bathurst Inlet and Coronation Gulf. One was even shot on the east side of Victoria Island. (Submitted by James Ruben)

James Ruben Jr., of Paulatuk, N.W.T., had only seen moose on TV.

That was until earlier this week, when he heard from an elder about two moose wading in the Arctic Ocean.

Inuvialuit artist James Ruben spotted two moose in the Arctic Ocean: 'It’s hard to believe, to see moose that close to the community!' says Ruben. (Submitted by James Ruben)

"It's hard to believe, to see moose that close to the community!" said Ruben. "I just had to grab my camera!"

Paulatuk, N.W.T., population 300, sits on the shore of Darnley Bay, some 100 kilometres northeast of the tree line.

On Monday, Ruben and other community members flocked to the water's edge, capturing rare images of moose wading in the Arctic Ocean.

"I wouldn't call them lost," laughed Ruben.

"The bugs are pretty bad. That could have scared them off this way."

'Not totally outrageous'

Moose typically live in the boreal forest feeding off leaves, twigs and stems from trees, depending on the season. They're also known to eat shrubs, including Arctic willows.

Dennis Murray, a biology professor and Canada Research Chair at Trent University, isn't shocked to hear about the sighting.

Paulatuk, where the two moose were spotted this week, is 100 km northeast of the tree line.
"It's certainly surprising but not totally outrageous," said Murray, who has studied moose in Ontario.

He explained that young animals, like this young bull moose, sometimes travel outside their usual range.

"The easiest explanation is that they are just curious animals," he said.

"They are reaching those teenage years. They want to investigate their surroundings."

Wandering 100 kilometres north of the tree line isn't a stretch for the long-legged animals, said Murray.

"They are big animals so they need a fair bit of biomass, a fair bit of vegetation to be ingested per day so they have to be sampling all kinds of things," he said. That can include wildflowers and Labrador tea.

"It's certainly not a high quality diet. There's no doubt about that."

Moose on the tundra

The N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources reports that since the 1900s, moose have been spotted several times on the tundra, including Bathurst Inlet and Coronation Gulf. One was even shot on the east side of Victoria Island.

James Ruben captured this photo Monday of two moose swimming in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Paulatuk, N.W.T. (Submitted by James Ruben)

According to the department, harvesters have been observing more moose venturing out on the tundra in recent years; however, the Paulatuk sighting is its first report of moose swimming in the Arctic Ocean.

A department spokesperson explained the sighting coincides with the "northward migration of shrubs and other vegetation due to effects of climate change."

Meanwhile, in Paulatuk, James Ruben is still marveling at his moose sighting.

"I love different animals," reflects Ruben. "They are amazing to watch."

Ruben suspects the animals' strong homing ability will eventually help the two bulls make their way back to the tree line.