Like any hiker that spends a lot of time in bear country, I have a healthy respect for bears. But the only animal that's tried to straight-out kill me in the wilderness was a moose, so I've had to learn how to stay on a moose's good side, too.
Case in point: A few years ago I went climbing with a friend. The crag was about a half-mile hike from the highway. Our skinny footpath was the only trail through an overgrown crush of spiny, head-high devil's club and the occasional tree, which filled the ground between two rock faces.
As close as we can deduce, a cow moose must have had her baby in the middle of that trail sometime after we first passed by. On the way back down a few hours later, the undergrowth started vibrating violently in front of me as we reached a blind turn around the trail. I had just enough time to think Please don't be a bear! Don't be a bear! before the cow moose materialized from the bushes in full-on stomp mode.
We did the right thing, or at least my friend did: She dived right into the thicket of devil's club and looked for a tree to hide behind, whereas I turned and ran back up the footpath. Moose are faster than humans, of course, but that didn't really matter because I'd only taken a few steps when my foot slipped on a rock.
I tripped and fell right in front of the moose and, at least from my perspective, everything after that happened in slow motion. I spent a long time falling. I twisted around to see the moose looming over me. That's a big moose, I thought. And then I froze, because it was the only option I had left at that point.
And the moose went back to whatever was around the corner -- her calf, we assume -- without laying a hoof on me.
We gave the moose about half an hour to calm down and move off before we tried the trail again, but when we peeked around the blind corner she was still there -- ears laid back, ruff raised, clearly ready to attack again.
Our only other option for getting back to the car was crawling through the devil's club, spines and all, with frequent pauses to peer above the vegetation for any sign of mama moose, then below it for any trace of the baby we assumed she was guarding. I'm sure I could have handled just the first, run-or-die part of the encounter on my own, but it was during that nerve-racking descent back to the road that I was truly grateful to be hiking with a trusted friend.
What about you -- do you have any good moose stories?
Photo © Lisa Maloney: Not so scary... yet.