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Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring, moose, and elk

Shyla and I have been enjoying what are truly bluebird days here in the mountains. It's been a blast of springtime but long-time mountain dwellers know that this warmth is just a teaser. If the past is any indicator, we will have more snow storms and freezing temperatures before true springtime hits.

We've been continuing our streak of seeing moose. It used to be that I'd watch Shyla's body language to find out if an interesting animal was nearby. Like this wide-eyed look...
Or this one...
Or air-scenting like she did at sunrise this morning...
This morning, I never saw what had caught her interest but last night was a different story.

The Runner and I took sunset hike with the Duo up a south-facing slope to a ridge. After we climbed steeply and attained the ridge, we started hiking directly toward the setting sun with the dogs on leash. Fortunately, the Runner was looking far ahead because a pair of moose were directly in our path.

I had my wildlife lens with me so the Runner retreated out of sight with the two dogs, and I stayed to get a few photos from behind a stand of pine trees (so I had protection if I was charged).  It seemed almost risk-free because I was so far away from the moose. I did talk calmly to them so I wouldn't surprise them.

The calf looked over toward me as I talked.
And here was his mom, who was paying no attention to me.
Just for context, we've done this hike at sunset innumerable times, and we've have NEVER seen another person on one of those hikes. Well, last night was a first. As I was taking these three photos, a hiker with a loose dog approached from the other side of the moose.

The calf immediately focused on the approaching person and dog.
That was the last photo of them I took because it felt like all hell broke loose. The mother and calf started retreating from the approaching hiker and dog but coming straight toward me. I yelled to the hiker and somehow communicated, by yelling as loudly as I could, that she needed to stop and control her dog because she driving moose straight at me. She did stop, and I started moving toward her and out of the path of the moose. Then, the crisis was averted as the moose pair ambled through an opening in the forest away from me, the hiker, and the Runner/Duo.

After it was all over, the hiker told me that the mother moose had treed her last week. She literally climbed a tree to avoid being hurt by the moose. Apparently, another hiker's dog was pinned to the ground under the hoof of the mother moose. Fortunately, the mother released the dog without harming it badly.

Whew. I love moose but their presence has changed the stakes for hikers around here. Unlike ever before, we have very large mammals whose first reaction to people is not necessarily to flee. They are aggressive toward people fairly regularly, as I learned earlier this winter.

This is very different from our herd of elk who invariably run from people. We saw part of the herd at a distance just after sunset last night.
The presence of moose certainly has changed how seriously I take body language signals from the dogs. If they tell me there's an animal nearby, my first worry is no longer that the dogs might chase the wildlife. My first worry is now that it might be a moose, and that moose might chase us!


  1. Shyla's eyes are so pretty!

    Those moose are beautiful but that is so scary. I'm glad that everything turned out okay! Yikes.

  2. Wow, that is scary. It's so weird because were we see all the moose in Wyoming, they are very habituated to people, so rarely aggressive. That being said, a mother moose is jut as dangerous as a momma bear.

  3. What a fright that must have been. I'm glad things ended so well. Thank goodness the hiker could control her dogs. You did get some good photographs before all hell done broke loose.

  4. they really are not liking people in their territory - and they seem to be quite comfortable in their new territory!

  5. A mama moose or a male during rutting season would be more of a concern to me than just moose in general. The amazing thing is how close you can find yourself to a moose before you see them. I've seen moose walk through the woods quite close to me, and if I hadn't seen them, I never would have heard them. Seems like such a big animal just "ought" to make more noise.
    I'm trying to imagine how a dog could get itself pinned under a hoof of a moose. Honestly, I can't picture it.

  6. Can you say scary! But I have to admit I love the photos of the moose.

    Aroo to you,

  7. You had us shaking inside at the very thought of what could have happened. Hope those moose decide they need to find some other place to hang out.

  8. They are mighty fearless creatures. Taking cues from Shyla is a wise move.

  9. Beautiful Shyla. Scary story about those moose
    Lily & Edward

  10. How terrifying! Through your photos, I understand your love of the land and animals but I would say your worries are quite worrisome!

  11. I am always in awe of your account of living in the wilderness!!

  12. Wow! The moose don't sound like good neighbors to me! I'm sorry you have to worry about them.

  13. Oh Kb,, my gosh!!
    Incredible photos but scary story!
    Thank goodness you are all okay..
    We worry about you,, and just want you to stay safe,, oh I know you will.. But I had to say it.

  14. You have some terrifying adventures! Wow, thank you for sharing all the great pictures and glad you are all ok.

    Anne and Sasha

  15. Can't believe the hiker wasn't more aware....

  16. Scary indeed!! I do love your pictures though...they are awesome creatures!

  17. What a scary experience! Thank goodness that you're all okay!

  18. Hari OM
    Any farmer will tell you to beware cows with calf, or indeed ewes with lamb... how much more protective are wild mothers then? Certainly dangerous. Charging encroachers is a likely option. Pinning a dog down? That I would have to see to believe.

    Shyla's alertness makes for amazing photos! YAM xx

  19. I love your look in the second photo... that's my look, before the mischief starts :o) and it's sadly the look what gets a NO! immediately :o)
    I'm glad it ended well this time for you all... it's scary when you have to climb on a tree and I feel sorry for the dog who had to meet mother elk..

  20. Another scary moose encounter but the photos are beautiful.

  21. Great photos of the moose and her calf, but a very important reminder that one must always be on guard when you in their presence. Glad all turned out well for you!

  22. I'm often alone and have no dog to warn me of danger, so I try to stay alert and watch for signs in the forest - tracks in the snow or scat for instance. It's easier in the winter to see their tracks. Take Care. It's been so warm here, too - snow melting rapidly.

  23. Hello beautiful Shyla! Stunning photos!

  24. we would have been so darn scared, shyla is doing a wonderful job taking care of you, and you taking care of her.
    stella rose

  25. It's sort of ironic that an herbivore poses more risk to you than the big cat carnivores.....

  26. Beautiful, beautiful photographs. It never ceases to amaze me how peeps can be so stupid. If you do the right thing, as you do, there is no problem with wild critters. Shyla understands just as you do.

  27. A very real concern too! We do NOT trust a moose! Be careful out there!

    Happy St. Paddy's Day!

    Your Pals,

    McMurphy & O'Stanley

  28. I just heard that Yellowstone had to admonish tourists from taking selfies with bears... We're a stupid lot, us humans!

  29. I kind of rejoice that the moose take a stand. There is after all, no love like a Mother's love. How frightening though. We just don't have these wonderful beasts to see and I think I'd be scared witless if we did! (that and full of awe of course!)

  30. I wonder if the hiker didn't learn anything from being previously treed by the moose? One would think a little more caution if you've already experienced it once yourself.


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