That’s No Crap
I love to hike in the woods and sometimes I find myself taking other people with me. Sometimes these people are new to the woods and lots of times they are kids. I have a strange sense of humor and like to goof around. I like to catch these people by suprise so what I do is say, "Hey, catch this!" They normally put out their hands and catch it and then ask what it is. They quickly drop it after I tell them it is moose poop. Then they squirm with disgust and squeal as I throw moose poop at them the rest of the hike. I tell them it isn’t disgusting since it is usually dreid up and crumbly. I’ve yet to try coating them in chocolate and serving them to guests, but it has been done by someone else on the lake. It looks like I may have another reason to pick up moose poop according to some information Mister Maxwell sent me and believe me, it isn’t just another line of crap.
Unlikely aroma: Man’s business sells dried moose droppings as rustic-smelling incense
Jerry Black searches for moose droppings in the Swan Valley last week. Black dries and packages the manure for use as incense, selling it to customers who like the woodsy smell.
Watch a video about Jerry Black’s moose poop incenseCONDON – Jerry Black’s picky about poo.
He’s tromping through waist-high grass in a Swan Valley meadow searching for moose poop. But the ungulates are uncooperative on this outing and all he’s finding are deer droppings and bear scat.
Turns out, dried moose manure smells like willow, red dogwood trees and other woodsy smells.About two months ago, Black started his fledgling business of making incense from moose manure, selling it for $8.99 a bag at the Clark Fork River Market on Saturday mornings. Black is slightly frazzled because he’s out of his poo supply. He’s standing in what he considers ideal moose habitat, a secluded boggy meadow where dragon flies alight on willows and red dogwood branches.
“This is frustrating,” said Black, brushing a fly from his sweat-soaked shirt. “If I don’t find any moose poop, I’m in trouble because the Hells Angels are here and I bet they’ll buy a lot of moose poop.”
Moose, considered emblematic of the West, have been used as icons for marketing everything from chocolate to jewelry to beer. But Black believes his moose poop incense is a first. He’s even trademarked his slogan with the state, “Moose-cense: You can’t get this (crap) just anywhere.”
Moose are herbivores and the moose marbles are purely vegetative material, Black said. Unlike cow patties, moose droppings resemble deer pellets.
He sells about a dozen packets a week, mostly as novelty gifts for people who live outside of Montana. One bride gave the moose poop as gifts to her bridesmaids for a wedding in Glacier National Park, a lady in New York City purchased some for her family and several college students told Black the incense would be a great way to cover up the telltale smell of their pot-smoking habits.
He and his business partner Marian Palaia, who started this business as a lark in June, have put their energies into it marketing the stuff. Palaia, who handles the packaging, said they’re likely to expand into book marks, T-shirts and canvas tote bags.
“It’s not going to be Microsoft, but I think we will be busy. How busy? Who knows,” she said.
Their Montana moose poop comes in a burlap bag with a refrigerator magnet, box of matches stamped with a moose, an incense burner to hold the acorn-size nuggets, about six to eight dried poop pieces in a organza bag, and a ceramic holder, either handmade pieces of carved elk horn or “recycled” vessels from garage sales. They also include a fun moose fact.
Black, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot, first heard of the concept during a wildlife tracking course offered in February by the educational nonprofit Northwest Connections.
As they passed some moose dung while tracking a cougar, Northwest Connections owners Tom and Melanie Parker happened to mention the poop made for fragrant incense. Black took some home, dried it on his backyard deck and a business was born.
Melanie Parker helped Black search from some moose dung near the Swan River, but didn’t find any either. She advised Black to look on mountain slopes at higher elevations. During the spring, the snow drives the game to the valley floors and they climb back on the slopes when the snow melts.
“In the summer, the moose particularly like the mid-elevation slopes,” Parker said.
Black said 10 percent of their net profits benefit Northwest Connections, and the rest are split between him and his partner.
“It started as a joke, but it’s been a hit at the market,” Black said. “It’s like Candid Camera – people go by and look, walk a little further and then come back. They don’t believe its moose poop. Naturally, your first inclination is ‘this is (crap) and it will smell like (crap).’ But it is like a willow, campfire smell. People are very surprised.”
He said Moose-cense has a Web site, http://moose.cense.googlepages.com/home, so people can purchase more once they’ve returned home.
After picking up “a couple thousand” moose nuggets, Black has become a poo connoisseur.
He avoids dark moose dung, which usually contains digested grasses and doesn’t burn with a woodsy smell. He also said some moose poo crumbles after it is dried and can’t be packaged and sold.
He tried drying elk and deer dung, but said it doesn’t have as nice a scent as moose droppings.
“Unless I can find something else that smells as good, we’ll stick with moose poop,” Black said.
Laurie Grogan, a hair stylist at Gregg’s Hair Co., said she’s purchased more than two dozen packets as gifts for visiting friends. “It’s nice, very organic and a fun gift. The presentation is so good, Grogan said. “Montana is just a moosy place.”
She said some friends from North Carolina purchased some packets, as did her sister who brought some moose poop home to Seattle.
Several hair salon customers said they probably wouldn’t buy moose poop incense, saying they weren’t into incense.
But another stylist said she purchased several packets.
“My daughter gave some to her teacher as a retirement gift,” said Andi Morigeau-Hardy.
Lynsey Lambert, 26, said she gave five packets to her work colleagues and five to her bridesmaids when she got married July 5 at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier.
“They all loved it and they burned it at our rehearsal dinner,” she said. “It smells like incense you would buy in the store, very woodsy. It doesn’t smell like poop at all.”Reporter Pamela J. Podger may be reached at 523-5241 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.