Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Moose Stories

Lonely junior (one-year-old) moose

I've been seeing a lot of moose lately, and some interesting drama with them as well.

Last Thursday I was driving to my morning workout.  Momma moose with junior (I call one-year-old moose 'junior', as distinguished from 'baby' which is a newborn) were alongside our road.  An hour or so later when I came home momma moose was loping away in that kind of awkward bouncing gait that moose have speedily--without junior.  Later that day, who was hanging around our yard, all alone, moping?  Yep, junior!  Momma must have chased him off, as momma's do each spring when they are about to have their new babies.  He looked so forlorn and lost, wandering aimlessly around our yard for a couple days.  He finally bedded down under the spruce trees right outside our living room, right where he'd bedded down with momma all these months past.  It was strange seeing him by himself as the young 'uns stick close to the mommas all year.

Sunday a friend who lives on the next road over and I planned to meet for a walk.  When I met her on the road, she was running.  She was a little freaked out because she'd been walking along when all of a sudden a momma moose peered around a car at her, making distressed woofing sounds.  In all her years in Alaska (including getting attacked by a moose while cross-country skiing in Anchorage) she'd never heard a moose make that noise before, so she was running to get the heck away!  A little later we saw a momma and junior moose together in a field along the road.  Maybe momma was sad about chasing junior away?  Or junior was so lonely she took pity on him?  Or else it was just a trial run to see if junior could fend for himself for a couple days?  Could also be it was a different moose momma and junior than the ones in our yard.

The babies are going to start dropping in the next few weeks, but it has been such a cold spring that there is hardly any sign of greenery yet so I hope they wait as long as possible!

Another unrelated moose observation:  Saturday night another junior was walking through our yard and stopped to browse on our rose bushes by our front deck.  We got a good view of him and I noticed something I've never seen before:  new antler buds.  These buds were just above the eyes and were hardly sticking out at all so obviously they've just sprouted recently (there's got to be a more scientific term than that, but I don't know what it is!), and the other junior hanging around definitely did not have buds so there are multiple juniors in the area.  Wish I'd gotten to my camera faster and gotten a picture as it was interesting. 

For all the moose I see, I rarely see one with antlers.  The males seem to have different browsing and travel patterns as they don't have the pregnancy and baby moose to look after so they stay more hidden while the mothers stick close to human habitation as protection from bears (though that unwittingly puts them at risk to be being preyed on by loose dogs).  In all my years here, I only see a couple antlered moose a year at most.

I cannot imagine visiting Alaska and not seeing moose, but it is so possible.  I'll go for months not seeing a single moose, and then suddenly I'll see them constantly as their movement patterns change with the seasons.  So right now I'm seeing at least a couple moose every time I drive to town it seems, which keeps things interesting!

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