Treed by Moose
October 5, 1991
In Anchorage, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail traverses a strip of wilderness between the city and the sea, including Kincaid Park. We went walking there one crisp, golden autumn day, looking for moose. Rutting season was near and leaves were falling, making it one of the best times to see moose. Someone told us a couple of bulls were engaged in a tussle down the trail, so we went looking for them. They'd disappeared. We searched the trees and bushes, and finally spotted two ears. We stealthily moved closer. It was a small cow moose, resting. She looked at us but seemed unconcerned, so we continued on. Dennis said, "Look over there!" Just past the cow over a little knoll was a pair of huge antlers, moving. We sat still, watching and waiting, thinking something might happen.
After awhile, we returned to the trail and walked on a ways. We saw the bull again, and couldn't resist sneaking closer. Within 30 feet of it we stopped and watched breathlessly while formulating an escape plan. We heard something behind us. A cow approached, walking down the trail. Unlike the others, she seemed quite interested in us and approached us directly, occasionally flattening her ears. We clambered up a tree and held on. The young cow came to within three feet of my foot. Would she bite? No, she seemed more interested than aggressive. A small bull followed the cow and circled behind us. We were surrounded by moose! Another bull showed up, rousing the big one. He stood up, making threatening noises. The small bulls moved away. For a time, all five of them were within a radius of 40 feet.
Our arms and legs ached as we clung to the tree, but we were fascinated, breathless. The big bull came closer, turning his head sideways to wrestle his 60" rack through the brush. He was blind in one eye, and we were on his blind side. If Dennis had had a camera, he could have gotten me clinging to the tree with the big bull behind me. Wouldn't that have been a photo?
Eventually, the moose all moved to one side of us and an avenue of escape opened. We descended from our perch and hurried quietly back to the trail. The big bull followed! We moved quickly, planning to duck under a bridge just a ways up the trail. He wasn't charging, and the brush slowed him down. He broke out onto the trail, looked at us, and ambled off the other way, seemingly unconcerned and unthreatened.
We've often told people the best place to see wild animals in Alaska is in Anchorage. Animals in the wilderness, where they're hunted, tend to avoid people. In town, we all share the space, peacefully for the most part.
Go on to read Farewell to the Quonset Hut
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