Leffe Lindh, the man who sleeps with moose. (Gardsjo Moose Park)
“His kisses are very wet. They’re intense,” is one of the first things Leffe Lindh says to me as he shows me a photograph of himself smooching his favorite moose on the lips.
He was introduced to me as “the man who sleeps with moose.” I just didn’t know what to make of that, or where to even begin asking him questions.
It turned out I didn’t have to. The moment we began chatting, he was perfectly forthcoming with the entire story.
Lindh began caring for and raising moose in the small town of Gardsjo in Sweden, 185 miles from Stockholm, more than two decades ago. Today he owns and operates the Gardsjo Moose Park, a sanctuary where visitors can get up close and personal with the wild creatures.
Your moose park home away from home. (Gardsjo Moose Park)
Last year he began allowing overnight guests to actually sleep within the moose park. For a rate of 500 euros a night, visitors can stay right in the midst of the moose. There is a tall fence surrounding the cottage to protect guests, but the moose mosey right up to it. Moose can jump up to 6 feet and run more than 35 miles an hour, so it is best if the average guest has a barrier. The small cabin can sleep five people very snugly, two comfortably. There is no television, no Wi-Fi and no mobile connection. Guests can leave only when Lindh comes to fetch them.
Moose are elusive. Though the moose population in Sweden is approximately 300,000, it is rare for a visitor to actually see the creatures, much less have any kind of interaction with them.
Lindh has tried to change that.
Just an adorable baby moose — another day at the moose park. (Gardsjo Moose Park)
Lindh’s love of moose began with a call from his cousin, a policeman who also worked as a local animal-control officer. He had a baby moose that needed to be cared for. The mother had been struck and killed by a car. Lindh, who was then a hunter, worked day and night to nurse her back to health, but in the end the baby moose didn’t make it.
“I cried when she died,” he told me. “But from then I got it in my head that I would start a moose park. I said that to all of my friends. They told me I was crazy. My wife called me crazy.”
Two male moose get into a tussle. (Photo: Gardsjo Moose Park)
And so he divorced his wife. A couple of years later he began dating a new woman, Ilona. Just two weeks into their courtship he grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes and told her: “I want to marry you and start a moose park with you.”
She said yes.
Lindh bought two moose babies in 2006 and began building a 25-acre farm. He opened the park in the summer of 2007. On the first day nobody came.
“I thought my dream had failed,” he said. “Maybe no one wanted to see the moose.”
But the next day eight people visited, and that summer, 1,000. The next summer the first two moose had two babies. Lindh helped to deliver them and slept out in the wild with them for the first two weeks so they would get to know him.
Testing out my new legs! (Gardsjo Moose Park)
Today they have 19 animals: nine adults, three youngsters born in 2013, and seven calves born in 2014.
Each spring the mothers give birth to the baby moose and Lindh sleeps out in the wild with them. On hot days he swims with them.
No one loves moose like Lindh loves moose. (Gardsjo Moose Park)
“I talk Swedish to them like they are human,” Lindh said. “They understand me. When I say come, they come. They stop when I say stop, and they follow me when I ask them.”
This summer one of the female moose rejected her baby, Olivia. So Lindh brought her into the house.
“She lives in the hallway right next to my bedroom,” he said. “She thinks I am her dad.”
In Sweden they call Lindh the “Moose Man.” All seasons have their charm at Gardsjo. In November and December the male moose have their large antlers and stand tall and picturesque in the snow. In May the babies are born.
Close enough to take a moose selfie. (Gardsjo Moose Park)
Lindh often wears a T-shirt depicting himself kissing one of the moose on the lips. He is pleased when I admire it, and smiles.
“You want it?”
“Sure, tell me where I can order one,” I replied.
“I will give you this one,” he exclaimed. I protested, but nothing would stop him from removing his shirt right in the middle of the bar and handing it to me.
“It is clean,” he said. I put it in my purse.