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Colloquy with Two Moose

August, 1999

I guess it was pretty stupid of me... but it sure was interesting!

You see, I think I was charged by a bull moose.

What made it stupid was, I was standing unprotected on a forest road at the time, and had deliberately approached him.

There were two of them, actually, but the other one didn’t charge, he preferred to go around through the underbrush.  Both were huge – taller than me at the shoulder – and a deep chocolate brown, with enormous antlers.  They were beautiful, and wonderful, and wild.

Photo of a moose For two days they had been grazing in and around the campground.  Although it is a public tent and trailer campground in a National Park, it is somewhat out of the way, and often there is no one there but me.  That’s why I like it.

Shortly after I had set up for my annual week alone in the woods, I heard some breaking of twigs that sounded like the movement of a very large animal.  Through the trees I spotted what I first thought was an elk.  I went out to the access road to get a better look, and saw two bull moose moving slowly up a clearing.  They lifted their heads when they sensed me, and stood still, majestic in the twilight.  Then one of them turned and trotted over a small hill, after which the other one did the same.

Back at my tent, I took another look at what I had thought was the destructiveness of a previous camper, and realized that the underbrush could easily have been trampled and torn by these very moose, sometime before I arrived.

Delighted by this “proximity to nature” experience, I went to bed, only to be awakened at 3 a.m. by the sound of ripping foliage, and heavy moose-like grunts, chewing and swallowing just outside my tent.  They were very close!  It is a trifle unnerving if you are inside a small ground tent with no windows when something which weighs close to a ton is just outside!  What if it accidentally steps on the tent and on you?

It didn’t, and slowly the sound of cracking twigs, heavy footfall, and ripped and chewed underbrush faded off into the night.

The next day I met a woman who had been in a nearby campsite, and she reported being awakened by the moose as well.  She was terrified at first, but, like me ended up viewing the experience as wonderful, and even as a great privilege.  But clearly the moose had selected this campground to be their restaurant-of-choice!

They showed up again in the middle of the afternoon.  “Now I can get a really good look at them!” I thought.  They were not close by, but I could hear them out on the access road, so I went in search of them.

Thinking they might be just ahead, I rounded a corner, and there they both were!  Perhaps 10 metres away.  Facing me.

I stopped, and deciding that murmuring speech would be calming, I spoke to them quietly, while continuing to move forward...  Then one of them started towards me.  Slowly at first, then lowering his head, and launching into a heavy rhythmic trot.

Hmmm.  I guess he didn’t like being spoken to.

I didn’t feel fear, but will never forget the next few seconds.  As it happened, I had come to an intersection in the gravel road, where there was a stop sign under an overhanging tree.  Maybe the sign’s post would absorb the force of the charge, and the low branches might give the moose second thoughts about tangling his antlers. 

Without running, I made it to the sign and stood quietly behind it.

Less than an arm’s length away, the moose suddenly veered off and trotted a few metres down the side road, where he stopped, flanks heaving, and watching me over his shoulder.

His companion, meanwhile, having gone around me out of my sight, emerged from the underbrush beside the one who had charged me, and then the two disappeared into the woods together.

Was it a “charge?” or did that fellow just want to get to some luscious leaves on the other side of me?

I don’t know, and the Park Warden to whom I described this wasn’t too sure either.  He had known of female moose to charge, and males to charge each other in the mating season.  He asked me if I could see the whites of the creature’s eyes during the “charge” but I couldn’t remember.  In my memory all I can see is those lowered horns...

Next year, I’m hoping to do some longer backcountry trail walking and camping.  I wonder if I’ll meet a bear...?

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