Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Moose Hunt

One of the fun activities to share with my co-pilot when driving along the Cassiar Highway is to look for wildlife. We have a reward system in place for the person who spots the chosen animal of the day. I get a donut at Tim Horton's Restaurants (fortunately we only find one a week) or Nola gets a Trail-Mix cookie. The animal we seek the most is the Moose.  It has a special place in my heart and memory bank because of a two week canoe trip fully self-contained, down the Allagash Waterway in Northern Maine about 12 years ago. We traveled from lake to river to lake in our Old Town Tripper canoe, in my opinion one of the finest canoes ever made. It could carry almost anything including folding chairs, a large tent, giant icebox, and enough food for two weeks.  Most importantly, it was a ruggedly built, sturdy boat that could navigate up to Class 3 rapids safely as we did on the McKenzie River in Western Oregon, our practice waters for whitewater canoeing when we were a tad younger. The amazing thing about the Allagash was we saw moose seemingly around every bend of the river within 25 feet of the canoe, some that we had to dodge in fear of bumping into them.  In total we saw about 30 Moose during the total time on the Waterway.

Jack Chief had mentioned that he saw a cow and calf moose on one of the islands during the past week.  In fact, it seemed that this particular cow moose delivered a calf out there each year over the past two years.  That was enough for us! It wasn't long before we were in our kayaks on a moose hunt ready to photograph the slightest movement in the bush.  But first a little description of this unique animal that inhabits many of the forests in northern North America.  I understand it was even mentioned in Caesar's Gallic Wars which I had to translate during my freshman year in a Jesuit High School where Latin was required two periods a day.  I don't recall a moose being mentioned which was a bit surprising since I was required to memorize whole pages of the text in Latin as some form of medieval torture for freshman, or so I thought at the time.

As we slowly paddled around the islands over the next hour we were listening for any sudden movement or unusual sounds.  What I remember is that they are, huge!  In fact, the moose is the largest member of the deer family (caribou, deer, elk and moose), about the same size as an adult horse. They weigh about 800 (females) to 1200 pounds (males) or more with a large male found in the Yukon that weighed in at 1800 pounds. As browsers that feed off plants, twigs, and fruit, they consume nearly 10,000 calories a day. Their large body size and long legs enable them to forage in ponds, rivers and lakes during the summer and deep snow in the winter. They reach up to seven feet at the shoulder and have few predators although wolf packs and grizzlies take calves in the spring.  They can be a hazard on the highway as they are known to be oblivious to cars and motorhomes and even charge an auto once in a while. Impacts are often fatal for driver and moose as they often land on the windshield and crush the front roof support and occupants. Thus, there are lots of signs on the highways in Canada that suggest drivers slow down and be aware of moose crossings. In general, moose are the most dangerous animal in the wild, attacking more humans than bears and wolves combined.  About the time I started to imagine what they could do to our fragile kayaks, I heard movement and galloping sounds along the shore above where we could barely see the outline of a moose. Or...was it a horse?

Then...Holy Mother! The cow moose jumped out of the brush right in front of my kayak.  I wasn't sure if she was about to attack or not but a calf soon followed and we were in a precarious photography heaven!

Considering I left my good Nikon camera and telephoto lens behind in the motorhome, I was shooting furiously with my pocket Canon trying to capture any form of the moose crossing.

They were moving from one island to another and we just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.  There were no aggressive gestures as we silently treaded water observing their agility and amazing speed going from land to water and back.

Oh well! Just another extraordinary day on Boya Lake along the Highway to Adventure.


At August 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At August 13, 2010 at 4:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! It took a while to be able to post something because I had to find my old AIM profile. (see "comment as:" selections below). Otherwise I can't post to it. Maybe I could if I joined blogspot but I don't know of that. But, Wow! That is a big moose! You are so fortunate! Just another extraordinary day? I wish I had a extraordinary day's like you do.


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