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Lisa Maloney

The Moose of Doom

By November 9, 2012

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A moose standing in a beaver pond near the Eagle River Nature Center, in Alaska

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, all funneling between two rock faces.

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 only got a few steps in before I slipped on a rock.

I tripped and fell flat on my face, right in front of the moose. 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.

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.

Comments

June 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm
(1) Michael Moseley says:

Funniest story I heard from a trucker was how he described driving in Maine. A moose was in the middle of the road and he brought his truck to a stop in time. Then he pulled his lanyard for his air horn. His next statement was, “After he got through with my radiator…”

June 7, 2013 at 3:06 am
(2) hiking says:

That made me laugh out loud… thanks for the story!

June 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm
(3) Chef LeeZ says:

I grew up Hunting moose and it’s near impossible to get on the wrong side of moose unless its they are in rut (near the end of September) when in rut they loose all fear of man. Now a cow moose attacking is possibly rarer than a mountain lion encounter (30 years of 3 months a year hunting and I’ve never seen a mountain lion). Now Bears are totally unpredictable and must be given that respect. To avoid bear contact simply wear a fishing bell on your pack and that noise will send 99% of your bears running long before you see them. Yup, you trade safety from surprising a bear for scaring off the other wild animals as well. Safe Hiking. Oh, by the way .. in God’s country Canada you are allowed to carry a defensive weapon (shotgun and slugs are the best close range defenders)

June 7, 2013 at 3:14 am
(4) hiking says:

Thanks for sharing… I bet those moose were smart enough to figure out you were a hunter! Bear bells are pretty controversial in some circles — some folks swear by them, but a number of wildlife experts out there say they’re not loud enough, especially when there’s a lot of background noise (wind, rushing water, etc).

As much as I love seeing wildlife, I totally agree that making noise (so they have time to clear out) is a good and worthy “preemptive defense.” A shotgun can be a good defense too, but only if you have the proper training to use it effectively and without endangering others in your party. It sounds like you do — thanks for commenting and happy hunting!

June 6, 2013 at 9:16 pm
(5) Kathy G. says:

Five years ago while tent camping in late June in Rocky Mountain NP My friend & I decided to take a hike down by the river. There was a narrow path through what looked like willows & about 50 yards in I looked to my right & there was a trampled area sorta like a den & I spotted my 1st moose of my life. I was so excited & started taking pictures when my friend said she heard something & looking further down the trail headed toward us was MAMA moose!!! Omg we froze & then started backing up & trying to decide whether to look big or little or RUN for our lives. We decided to keep slowly backing up & being little. It worked & the mama turned & went in to check on her baby. Great experience that luckily turned out good.

June 7, 2013 at 3:07 am
(6) hiking says:

Thanks for the story… I’m so glad that worked out okay! Welcome to the “Mama Moose Survivors Club”!

June 9, 2013 at 4:10 pm
(7) Spirit Wolf says:

Ironically enough, I grew up in a town called Moose Lake but never saw a moose until in my 30′s after I had moved to and been in for quite awhile an entirely different state! LOL
Michael, Mosely (I hope I spelled your name right), that story with “after he got through my radiator” in it sounds entertaining and funny. Could you share the rest of it here or maybe provide a url where we could find it on our own? Thank you!

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