You’re driving through Grand Teton early in the morning. You notice a beaver pond next to the road. A large chocolaty-brown colored mammal with a dangly tassel under its chin is majestically wading through the water! It appears to be a particularly non-threatening breed of swamp donkey placidly grazing on some green goo from the bottom of the pond. You snap some photos while 200 other people pull over and a Moose jam ensues. Everyone gets out of their cars and approach the animal for close ups. …30,20,10 feet away from disaster. Everything is fine and dandy and the beast continues to stay calm and composed like a robotic statue. Moose are chill, right?…
Moose are herbivores. Basically a giant bog deer, they spend most of their time munching on aquatic vegetation including willows, trees, grasses, and bushes. They aren’t exactly out for blood… Or so you would think!
Our large mammals in JH are undoubtably dangerous. Most people think of bears as the scariest animal you might encounter in the woods. In my opinion, MOOSE are right up there on my list as the most unpredictable and temperamental animals out there! With our perceived safety around these 1000 lb. wild critters, I think it is amazing that we do not usually hear of anyone being killed or injured by moose attack. On the roadside or in the backcountry!
Here’s where things got real for me. Last week I went out for a hike on Phillips Pass. The trail is relatively level but is cut into a steep hillside. I was trudging back from a cold solo hike in a hail storm when I came up and over a small roller in the trail. Directly in front of me, about 4 inches from my nose, is a rack of antlers. Big bull moose antlers!
I take about 20 steps back from where I came, never taking my eyes off those antlers and then I basically levitate in fear to the top of the steep 45 degree slope. I sit down with nowhere to run and the moose comes diagonally up the slope at me. He snorts, puts his head down, rears up, spins around and retreats! He’s gone… for now.
I catch my breath. I’m sure my heart was beating at about a mile per minute. Maybe if I were as diesel as Crystal Wright I could take him. I’m sorry to say I’m not and he outweighs me by about 900 lbs. So I proceed to make a phone call, declaring that if I get murdered by a moose today my friends can have my best belongings. They knew I was out hiking in that area, but I wanted to be clear that I was in trouble!
I wait about 20 minutes. All I want is to go home. I hike above the area and attempt to circle around the trees where I think the moose might have gone. My eyes are wide and my head is on a swivel, scanning for the Mr. Mean Moose. Eventually I return to the trail and continue on my way. I walk for another 5 minutes and Damn! There He IS… Not even 15 feet above me!!
This time I scramble down the hill. By this point he’s all stirred up about me being there. He takes his first pass at me. I feel like a first-time matador in the ring with no way out. I see a root ball from a downed tree and a leaning dead tree above it. It’s my best option and I crawl underneath. I ball up and put my backpack above my head! He tramples a web pattern around the forest. I could have touched his hoof on one of his passes. These guys are incredibly strong and can bolt faster than you would imagine!
Eventually he leaves the area. Everything is quiet. Please, no more moose encounters tonight!!! I emerge and run on a bad knee to my truck.
We all love to hike in the mountains. Moose are definitely a danger to consider! This time of the year they are feeling especially aggressive. ( It is the beginning of the rut, lots of testosterone! ). Be careful out there!!!
Hikers remember: Try to hike with a buddy or group. Let other friends or family know where you are hiking. Carry bear (moose) spray or consider other ways to defend yourself. Talk or sing to avoid startling wildlife. Always be alert- NO headphones. Cell phones are a great invention, carry one. In any encounter with wildlife (accidental or not) treat them with respect!