Close Encounters…. of the Moose Kind
By Brian Sherry
About 25 years ago, I took a couple weeks off work and went to Teton National Park, which I had briefly visited a few years earlier. I wanted to do a little hiking and take some photos, nothing out of the ordinary.
Earlier in the summer, I had hurt my knee playing softball, so nothing strenuous was planned, just easy day hikes. One of the hikes was a three-mile loop that began and ended on Jackson Lake at the Colter Bay Visitor’s Center. It was an ideal hike, mostly flat with the loop starting about a half mile down the trail. I chose to go by the pond, then loop around to the lake and back. At the pond, there were some deer on the other side, so I stopped to watch them through binoculars. Above me I heard a big bird call, and I looked up in time to see an osprey with a fish being attacked by a bald eagle. I reached for my camera, but the osprey decided to drop the fish and fly off. The fish landed about 20 yards from me in the pond. It was still alive, barely, flopping every few minutes, with its tail in the water. With camera in hand, I waited for either bird to come back for the fish, and give me a perfect photo opportunity. It didn’t happen, so sadly I moved on down the trail toward the lake.
The trail followed along the lakeshore. I spotted a moose with a calf in the shallow water. Other hikers passed by them with no problems, so I continued on down the trail, passing by the moose, which were about 40 feet out in the water. Though I tried to not make much noise, the calf was disturbed by my presence, and he did a false charge (fortunately), which caused me to run back to where I had first spotted them. A couple of other hikers were at that spot, and, of course, one snidely asked: “What you doing — bugging the moose?”
After chatting with me a bit, they decided to take a chance, and got by the moose fine. So did a few hikers who followed. However, my knee was sore after sprinting away. I decided safety comes first, and that backtracking was the way to go.
I returned to where the loop joined the trail back to the visitors center, and then suddenly heard a crashing off to my immediate right. Much to my chagrin, there were two moose running full speed, perpendicular to the trail, and right at me. Fortunately, they crossed the trail about 10 yards in front of me. However, after they passed, I heard nothing. There were no crashing sounds fading away as they ran off to my left. No snorting. Nothing. Just quiet.
This made me suspect they were lying in wait, ready to spook me again. I know from reading that’s not in their nature, but after two close calls, I had to know if those were the moose from the lake. I turned around again and took the loop back around the pond and to the lake, where I saw no moose. Then, I continued on the trail by the lake and cautiously passed where they had crossed in front of me and made it back to the visitor’s center without any other problems.
After all this, in which I was charged while others could pass with no problems, and them running full speed through the woods, and hearing other moose stories, I’ve come to one conclusion: Moose are the drama queens of the wild!
Brian Sherry, when he’s not working as the volunteer program director at KVRZ public radio in Libby, sells antiques and collectibles at Left Hand Antiques.