Sunday, April 2, 2017

Moose "Attack"

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So I posted earlier about encounters with urban wildlife when I lived in Anchorage, and in the summers I would travel all over Alaska for fieldwork, encountering wildlife in their natural habitat. I had plenty of training on bear safety, and in addition to the .44 mag I carried I would often blow a dog whistle to let bears know we were around, since they normally don't want anything to do with humans. I would use the whistle when we were going through dense brush or coming over a rise, thinking it would alert bears to our presence and help to avoid encounters. It might have even worked on the bears, but one day as we came over the top of a big hill we found ourselves close by two baby moose.

One guy on our team wanted to get some pictures of the baby moose, and I was standing there watching him, holding a shovel and a backpack full of gear. Then suddenly the other guy on the team took off running. I looked around, and there was a mama moose, hackles up, barrelling towards me and the guy taking photographs. We zigzagged through the trees but she was still coming at us, and I realized at some point that (1) I have a gun, and (2) I can't use the gun while I'm holding this shovel. So I chucked the shovel aside and pulled my gun, still running all the while. We found a steep ravine to go down, and the mama moose stopped at the top of it. Moose being fairly top-heavy with spindly legs, I think running down a steep slope was too big a risk for her, and at that point we were far enough away from the babies.

But she wasn't done yet. She went after the guy who ran away before we knew what was happening, and chased him quite a long way. I think he was a bit miffed that I hadn't shot the moose, but I didn't think our lives were in danger. Plus, if I had shot the moose we would have had a moose carcass near our fieldsites, which probably would attract bears. In the end everything was fine, but we lost a day of sampling because we never did find that damn shovel.

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