Mark Picard Has Likely Photographed More Moose Than Any Other Mainer

We asked him a few questions about his favorite photography subject.

bull moose standing in tall grass
Photo by Mark Picard
By Brian Kevin
From our April 2023 Animals issue

Mark Picard was an amateur wildlife photographer living in western Massachusetts when he took his first trip to Baxter State Park, in search of Maine’s state animal, in 1980. The Katahdin region became an obsession, as did photographing moose, and Picard gave up a day job painting custom motorcycles to go pro. In the decades since, he’s seen plenty of changes, from digital replacing film to the upsurge in winter ticks that’s recently fueled calf mortality. With his partner, photographer Anita Mueller, Picard runs Moose Prints Gallery & Gifts, in Millinocket, where the pair settled in 2010. We put a few questions to the man who’s likely photographed more moose than any other Mainer.

First, the obvious question: why moose?

I just love them, I don’t know. It’s like they’re made up of about nine different animals and got the best of each. They’re like a deer, but they’re huge, like a hippopotamus, and they’ve got these long legs, like a giraffe. They can survive out in the bitter cold, lying in the snow. They’re just amazing.

What does a successful moose photographer have going that another photographer doesn’t?

Luck and preparation. Then it’s just realizing that moose are very random in their movements — never the same patterns from day to day, week to week, year to year — so you have to learn to read signs and be aware of your surroundings. You have to figure out things like when the rut is, talk to hunters and guides. I can’t just say, be at Sandy Stream Pond at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I guarantee you’ll see something. I used to do that, but I can’t anymore.

What changed? 

It’s getting harder and harder to find moose because of the winter ticks. It’s devastating, really. I used to, back in the early 2000s, maybe see 40 in a day. You see one now and you’re lucky. It’s all about the climate change that’s happening, which causes the ticks to stay alive when they would have died because of snow and cold. 

Photo by Mark Picard

Do you have a white whale? A shot you’ve always wanted but haven’t got?

One thing I don’t have is a really good fight between two big bulls. I have some younger bulls sparring in the fall and in the snow. To a person who doesn’t know what they’re looking at, it looks like fighting, but they’re just learning, getting used to their antlers. I mean a real knock-down-drag-out, thousand-pounds-apiece couple of bulls fighting. 

Do you ever get bored while waiting in the field? 

How can you get bored? I might get bored sitting in a restaurant in Bangor or something, but how could you get bored out in the woods? You’ve got to be an opportunist. I mean, maybe a mink or a bobcat will pop out. They’re just as important in the landscape as moose. I’ve still never gotten a killer lynx photo, for example, so while I’m out looking for moose, I’ve got lynx in the back of my mind. But really, I don’t care if it’s a chipmunk — I’ll photograph it. They’re all important critters, and I love them all.

Moose Prints Gallery & Gifts is open year-round. 102 Penobscot Ave., Millinocket. 207-279-6074.