Today I want to talk crap, literally. There are several interesting aspects of moose poop collection and processing that I want to discuss while also dispelling any ideas that a processed moose nugget is “gross”.
The Algonquian Indian word “mons” or “moz” translates to “twig-eater” and is the origin of the English word moose that is used today. So just how many twigs do these creatures consume? According to Interior and Northern Alaska: A Natural History, “Food intake in moose is truly prodigious; up to 20 kg (44 pounds) of food may be consumed each day.” That’s a hefty amount of willow, aspen, poplar, and birch and more importantly for The Winking Moose, that’s a lot of moose nuggets!
The first step in collection is to think like a hungry moose. Areas with many willows, especially those which show signs of recent browsing, are hot spots for poop collection. Wandering through the woods hunting for my target is very peaceful and rewarding. While moose nuggets are plentiful in Fairbanks, Alaska that doesn’t mean that each one is useful to make into a piece of artwork. Many of the nuggets I bring back from a collection are not actually usable due to imperfections; it is poop after all!
Some people find moose droppings to be disgusting. I may be a little out there, but after dealing with thousands of nuggets I have never ACTUALLY found moose poop to be gross. I have never sensed any repulsive odors and it actually feels more like I am dealing with twigs rather than fecal matter.
The next step in the process is to sort through the droppings to carefully dry the quality nuggets. I have tried accelerating this process with heat, but the best method seems to involve patiently waiting for the dry interior Alaska air to do the job. Each nugget must be fully dried to ensure no mold or other organisms can survive.
Staining or coating the moose poop is the final step in processing before the artistic fun can begin. Since I don’t want to waste polyurethane, each dried moose nugget receives a final inspection before applying the first coat. Many nuggets crack during drying so again I lose a good amount of potential products in between the drying and staining processes.
My staining procedure is the result of many experiments and has been tweaked and refined. When all is said and done each individual nugget receives two coats of polyurethane sealing the nugget and providing strength so The Winking Moose’s products will not break. In fact, I have worn the moose nugget necklace and accidentally squashed it with all my weight with no significant damage detected.
By the time I finally get to work with the processed moose nuggets, it’s easy to forget I am holding a piece of actual poop. As my reserves begin to dwindle I am excited for winter moose nugget collection. Fairbanks is now covered with a nice blanket of snow so cross-country skiing should provide an excellent method for hunting future batches of moose nuggets. I must say though, if you find a nice deposit in your back yard don’t hesitate to let me know!