Monday, May 23, 2011

Moose on the Loose

The summer I was in sixth grade, my family went on a camping trip to Yellowstone Park. We pitched our tents in the most remote official campsite, along a stream in the northeast corner of the park.

After breakfast one morning, the four of us embarked on a hike, mostly uphill along the stream, to a huge meadow where we were going to fly fish for trout.

When we reached the edge of the meadow, we took a break. It had been a steep climb over very rocky terrain and we needed a rest.

A couple of minutes later, my dad wanted to push on, knowing the fishing holes were only a few more miles across the meadow. The rest of us were pooped so he went on alone.

Soon thereafter, I took off by myself along the same path hoping to catch up with my father. My mother and younger brother stayed behind to rest some more.

It wasn’t long before I was quite a distance from the resting spot and my father still wasn’t in sight.

Then I came over a small hill where something caught my eye. There were a couple of large animals a mere 20 feet off to my left in front of a clump of aspen trees. Yellowstone Park was full of bears and they had a reputation of occasionally mauling a tourist just to prove they could.

I froze in my tracks.

To my relief, it turned out to be a female moose with a baby moose at her side.

Then to my horror, I quickly realized I had encroached upon their territory, much too close, and surprised them. I also knew the most dangerous animals were the ones that were wounded or the ones with young offspring nearby. Off to my right was nothing but a wide-open field. The only trees I could possibly get to were on the opposite side of the moose.

I remained frozen hoping they would go away. I considered calling for my father but he was probably too far away to hear and I also didn’t want to startle the moose.

Soon my worst nightmare began. The baby moose took a few cautious steps toward me. Big momma moose didn’t like it at all. She began snorting and pawing her hoof into the ground.

The baby moose took another step in my direction. I had a fly rod in my right hand. I figured if the moose attacked, I’d fend it off with the fly rod, circle around it and dash into the clump of aspen trees. I even picked one out that looked easy to climb in a hurry.

There were several facts I didn’t know about moose at the time. The average moose is over six feet at the shoulder and weighs over a thousand pounds. It can run 35 miles per hour -- about twice as fast as a human being. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more people in America are killed by moose attacks than by bear attacks.

And the surest way to provoke a wild animal is to get between it and its offspring.

So there I was, patiently waiting to fend off a moose with a fly rod.

The baby moose took another step forward and big momma moose was becoming extremely excited. They were so close to me I could actually smell them.

Just as I sensed the impending mayhem, big momma moose stopped pawing her hoof and jerked her head back in the direction from which I had just arrived.

Then I heard it too. It was my mother and brother coming up over the hill, talking to each other.

The baby moose quickly scooted back to big momma and they both scampered off beyond the clump of aspen trees and out of sight.

Here are some tips when encountering moose on the loose:

1) Don’t run away from a wild animal, especially one that is faster, heavier and dumber than you are.

2) Don’t approach a baby wild animal. Any female that has recently given birth has a lot of repressed anger.

3) Don’t hike in moose territory alone. If you manage to survive a moose attack, you’ll need someone to drag you back to the car and drive you to the nearest emergency room.

4) Don’t try to bring down a moose with a fly rod. Something closer to an AK-47 would be more effective.

5) Don’t make any moose jokes. Moose are very sensitive to ridicule.

6) Don’t forget to bring a video camera. Moose attacks make good entertainment.

Quote for the Day -- "Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees..." Henry David Thoreau

Bret Burquest is the author of four novels, and has recently published THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY (esoteric knowledge) and 1111 HAPPY TRAILS ROAD (humor) -- available of He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and the ghost of Davy Crockett.

No comments: