Waltzing with Moose
June 23, 1995
In 1995, several friends visited the homestead. Bev and Kent were ready to leave one morning before the rest of us, so they hiked on ahead to look at flowers. Bev was proud of her efficiency in packing for the trip. She had used everything she'd packed except for an umbrella. The weather had been wonderfully sunny.
So today she carried her umbrella to shade her from the sun. Our dog Goldie accompanied them, anxious to be on the move. At one point, Bev was ahead of Kent. She saw a cow moose to the side of the trail. The dog gave chase. But this moose didn't run, it turned and charged! In Bev's words:
I saw both dog and moose quickly turn and now the moose was loping directly toward me and I realized I was in danger. Feeling fright and apprehension, what was I to do? How could a 64-year-old woman protect herself from an angry beast? Should I run or hold my ground for a moose? Two men had recently been trampled to death by moose. Was this to be my fate?
My first instinct, of course, was to run, but there was nowhere to go and I knew I could not outrun a moose. There were no trees close by, just tundra-like brush. The cabins were too far away and no one was near to hear me if I screamed.
Now the moose was within a few feet of me. I desperately wanted something, anything, between me and that animal. I lowered my open umbrella and started moving it back and forth in front of her, never thinking for a moment that an umbrella could stop a wild animal, let alone a moose. But—she did stop—about four feet in front of my face, and stood looking at me with big brown eyes. I stood there petrified, moving only the umbrella, wondering what she was about to do. She stood very tall—at least six feet, and could have weighed anywhere from 800 to 1300 pounds. I had no illusions about the effectiveness of an umbrella to protect me from her wrath.
But, as suddenly as she came, she backed off and spun around. . . .
The moose came back. This time, as Bev backed away, she tripped and fell to the ground. In the end the moose left her unharmed, thanks to her trusty umbrella. Once danger was past, we were able to joke about it. Perhaps, someone suggested, umbrellas have been underrated. Couldn't one be adorned, for instance, with the image of a large, snarling grizzly bear so it could be opened as a moose came close? How about pepper spray in the point of the central rod?
It's unusual, but not that unusual, for moose to be aggressive when not protecting calves. Native Alaskans consider moose as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than bears.
So how do you stop a charging moose? Take away her credit card.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Interesting facts about moose:
- Moose are the largest members of the deer family. Bulls weigh 800 to 1200 pounds and cows weigh 500 to 900 pounds. They can live 15 to 20 years in the wild.
- Moose have the largest antlers of any member of the deer family. Antlers grow every year from permanent knob-like bones on the bull's skull. Yearling bulls are called spike-forks. Antlers palmate (widen into flat palms) in the second year and in five or six years can measure 50 inches or more.
- Moose drop their antlers every year. Antlers are high in calcium and are eaten by other animals. (Moose do not have horns. Antlers are bone. Horns are not. Antlers are shed each year. Horns continue to grow throughout an animal's life.)
- Moose are browsers and subsist on twigs and branches in the winter and leaves in the summer. They may gain half their body weight during the summer. Fires and retreating glaciers provide excellent moose habitat.
- Another source of food is sedge and water plants that grow on the bottom of shallow areas in lakes. The cow in the photo above had just lifted her head from the water.
- Moose are well adapted for travel in snow, with long slender legs and the ability to lift their hooves nearly as high as their shoulders. It takes more than three feet of snow to hamper the movement of a moose on flat ground. Their long legs make it possible for them to simply step over fences, especially in winter, to enjoy tasty garden vegetables.
- Moose have layers of fat and a thick coat of hair. In storms, snow can pile up on their backs without melting.
- Although moose are hunted by Alaskans for meat, 30% of moose killed by humans are road kill. About half of moose killed by vehicles are calves. When winter snow is especially deep, moose prefer to walk on roads. They can be difficult or impossible for drivers to see in the dark of winter. Their eyes don't reflect light like the eyes of a deer.
- It is illegal to shoot an injured moose. If a driver hits a moose, he must call Fish and Game. The meat of moose killed by vehicles is harvested and given to qualified families for food.
- Moose breed when they are about two years old and usually have 1 - 2 calves every two years. The gestation period is 8 months.
- Moose calves are the primary source of food for bears and wolves in the spring. Up to 80% of them become prey.
- Calves grow quickly and weigh 200 to 400 pounds their first winter.
- Cows chase their calves away after two summers and mate again.
- A so-called “counter-current heat exchange” allows hot arterial blood flowing toward the hooves to cool, giving up its heat to rewarm cold venous blood returning to the heart. One study showed that pad temperatures stabilize at one degree above freezing, just warm enough so they function and avoid frostbite.
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Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony