I came upon this same moose for the first time at the end of 2015’s moose hunting season. I took a longer-than-expected walk and was returning as twilight turned into something darker. My weak headlamp shone only a little bit ahead. As I began climbing the last hill, I saw a large blackness almost at the bottom, not far in front of me. “Bear – or moose,” I guessed. A black hole of blackness. “Too big for bear”.
The blackness was motionless; as my eyes adjusted, I saw that, yes indeed, it was moose. And not a happy one. Not happy with me because I continued to climb long after he smelled, heard, saw me coming and had stopped. What effrontery on my part to invade his space. How could he know my senses were not equal to his? And especially unhappy because hunting season had just ended, too recently for him to know this. Weeks of evading bow hunters, muzzle-loaders, and rifles had made him ornery indeed.
So as I finally got the message and stopped still, he began to move toward me. This was a new experience for me.
I have encountered moose over the years on our mountain property. One bull in particular, I knew from his days as a coltish youth, slim and long-legged. I would see a black presence, darkness slipping behind a tree, becoming invisible. I would not approach, and he grew to understand my respectful deference. One evening we walked, seeing a large shadow standing in the forest waiting. We also stood quietly for some time, then watched him sink slowly to the ground for the night.
Good Night, Moose
Night shades fall
as darkest shadow
stops stock still…
melts behind tree trunks
notes our approach halt
we three, human and wild, waiting and watching…
He sinks slowly to the ground
evening bedding safely found
I looked for this moose always, especially after the close of each hunting season. Sometimes two years would go by before I saw him again, and the sight was always welcome. The last time was five years ago, also in the fall. We were hiking with dogs near the cabin, calling and making noise. He approached from behind, on an almost-intersecting path. I grabbed the dogs’ collars as we sat down. Their long collie noses circled in the air like sniffing search lights, as I tried to silence their howling.The moose continued to advance, stopping and watching for some time as we took pictures, which occupy a place of honor on my wall. Eventually he continued on. I never saw him again. Sometimes I wonder if he was saying good-bye.
In any case, that is what I have grown to expect from moose. Mutual respect and forbearance. Not what I was getting at the moment.
His Orneriness came toward me slowly, continuing as I backed down the hill. I turned off the dirt path into the forest, hoping that would do the trick. It didn’t. He turned, too, following me into the trees. I kneeled down, figuring there was nothing I could do to avert whatever was coming. From ten feet away the moose looked at me for several long seconds, displeasure registering on his face. Then he began to climb. I don’t know if I felt more relief or astonishment. I wasn’t yet sure relief was the appropriate emotion.
As he climbed, he stamped and snorted. He stamped and snorted all the way through the forest and up the hill. This was quite extraordinary, since moose in my experience move silently through the woods. He wanted me to understand clearly that he was very much annoyed!
In the “no relief yet” department, I heard him snorting and stomping as he circled back to the dirt road he had just descended. I’m at the bottom, he’s at the top, snorting while looking down at me. I thought, “Must we do this again?”
I began to sing, alternating my yoga chanting, which I know calms herds of buffalo one passes through,with the if-all-else-fails world’s most monotonic lullaby I invented for my son. I sang for a long time without moving. I didn’t see or hear him at the top of the hill. It was quite dark, and I knew the family would be wondering where I was. I had to climb this hill to get back. So eventually I did.
At the top, I saw and heard nothing. Evidently I had bored him enough for him to move along. Back at the cabin, the dogs barked like crazy. They had some hint of odd goings on. My husband was oblivious.
In winter that same season I saw this moose again. Far away, climbing a different hill also on our property, he was in company with another bull. He gave me a long look from the distance. He seemed less inclined to be ornery now.
The dirt path I have been describing is an old logging road. Until the snows come, we can drive the car the mile into the cabin. After that, we must ski. On our last visit, I saw tracks in the snow – large moose tracks. Moose are bigger than elk and generally travel alone. Their legs are long and leave deep, far-apart imprints. I saw smaller tracks and wondered if those could be elk. Then I realized there might well be a calf.
And there they were, in sight of the cabin. A cow moose with calf, leaving the road and heading up into the forest. The cow kept us in sight as they climbed. Thinking about it, I realized this calf could be the one conceived two hunting seasons ago in the then still-leafed bushes next to the cabin.
I have more moose stories, also centered around the cabin. This land has become a mountain sanctuary for deer, elk, moose, and bear. A fox follows our tracks but usually stays out of sight. I hope someday wolves will find sanctuary here. I look out the window and hope.