A Recent Wildlife Encounter

A Recent Wildlife Encounter


I post a short story authored by me published under the name Steven Major. It relates to the topic, tho should not be considered advise. It is written for a broad audience, and is nonfiction.

Middle of May

The morning air is sweet from hours of sleepy rain and dense with patches of fog. I was in shin high grasses, wet to the knees from walking the edge of a small stream with camera and long lens looking for birds. Up ahead, the stream took a turn, hidden by more stalky and difficult vegetation. Moving slowly I ventured large steps while parting thin trees with both arms, eventually finding the stream, and pleased I had.

This place was a special. Up and downstream, grasses on both banks had grown tall and fallen towards each other, forming a self supporting wall of green with a small arched underpass over the stream. Behind me was the dense vegetation I had come from, a thick pine forrest on the other side. Here was a magical place, sealed off from most everything else, and it even came with entertainment.

On the opposite bank were two logs, one on top of the other and both partially in the water, next to a tree growing at the waters edge. Sparrows and Finches would land on the lowest tree branch, walk across it, float down two feet to the top log, take five steps to the right, hop to the bottom log, walk to the water’s edge, drink a little or a lot, then fly off. Every bird took the same six step procession to get a drink, sometimes in two’s, and traffic was not light. It was like watching the same pinball game with different balls or a live version of the Shoots and Ladders board game in reverse. I sat on the stream bank to take pictures, rest, and enjoy the show. It continued, until suddenly, everything changed.

A loud sound like a waterfall took my attention downstream. Under the green wall I could see a great deal of churning white water and what looked like several hairy legs coming at me with urgency. Almost immediately, an adult moose burst through the green wall, takes three steps, sees me and stops abruptly. I am sitting cross legged on the ground, his left front foot is six feet from me. His massive head towers above and turns towards me. Seconds later, moose number two bursts through the green wall, collides into the buttocks of moose number one and stops, followed by moose number three who likewise, bumps into moose number two and stops. They are massive, startled, confused, and are blocking the sky. It was a moose version three stooges routine as seen by a mouse. Unusual, memorable, and instantly concerning. I had no go to behavior, or place to go. None of the busy conversations in my head had found the words “that’s a good idea”. Concern grew.

This was a family. Dad, Mom and Junior. He, a nine foot monster with stubby rack, standing in two feet of water. Mom was less filled out, Junior, a work in progress assemblage of rails and bulging joints. Both only slightly less tall than Daddy. They were all giants, soaking wet from the night rain and dripping everywhere from walking up the stream. From the start, Mom and Junior never looked at me or dad, they remained motionless and silent with blank forward looking stares. They were waiting for instructions from what appeared could be a first time dad, my concern being his ill perceived need for brevity, or the learning arc of life itself could become a serious injury or life threatening hospital bill.

Daddy moose had turned and lowered his head and was staring at and through me. His eyes were four feet from me, his mouth much closer. I recalled reading that they do not bite people and that I did not write the book. This goes on for one or two minutes then he quickly turns his head to the extreme left, shoots Mom a silent glance, then returns to staring at me. The speed that he moved his massive head was alarming. It was a jerky movement that foretold any lack of finesse would be compensated by overwhelming power. His glance caused Mom and Junior to take two steps, putting them on the opposite bank in the same forward facing silent position, while Daddy continued to look through me.

It appeared we were in some kind of standoff, like the moment in the duel when both duelers turn and point their guns at each other but haven’t started shooting yet. It is historically a very short moment, but this one was long, unpredictable, and teetering on a fulcrum of scary. I needed a replacement moment, so suggested one. I decided to try time shifting, try pretending that we had already engaged in the decisive battle, and that he had won. I expressed my defeat by removing eye contact, making a wilting sound, and physically cowering as best as I could. From my crossed position, I very slowly lowered my head and upper body and twisted away to my right while maintaining peripheral vision of his legs and the six feet of water between us. The plan being that if he does come at me, I can toss the camera so a friend can retrieve and sell it while I’m in traction.

I wait for him to realize the win and become unstuck from his victorious moment and move on. Not happening. He again lowers the Goliath head, but this time, to mock me, he does it ever so slowly. From the top of my vision, first descend the nervous lips, then slowly, two feet of mouth and snout, then the eyes glued to mine. To vex me, he continues, and lowers his head into the stream right up to the very bottom of his eyeballs. Doing so causes his head to become even closer to me. His eyes are bigger and whiter than golf balls. The lashes are two inches long. We are three feet from each other and now again, eye to eye. I’m getting a leg cramp from sitting still, crossed legs, and occasional heartbeats.

We remain motionless with eyes locked while the stream moves between us. There are things floating down the stream, small sticks, and stringy parts of live and dead weeds and such. These things soon start becoming caught on Daddy’s big hairy head, with some of them wrapping around the front and interrupting his vision. Because he would not take his eyes off me, he started blinking to dislodge the impairments. It started slowly but increased with the weeds building up. He blinked one eye, then the other, then each eye in rapid succession, then worked up to blinking both eyes in wild rapid succession at once. My brain departed.

It returned when Daddy quickly lifted himself to a standing position, doing so in a way that shoveled two gallons of water on my head. I looked up as he shook off another one. Most fortunately, he now stood fully upright, his head much farther away, his attention elsewhere. From the stream bottom he had brought a stuffed mouthful of very slimy leafless fluorescent green gunk to eat. I watched with difficulty, his difficulty trying to swallow some of it while keeping the rest of it from slithering out of his mouth, yuck.

After he finished most of it, Junior perked from the silence with very loud groans. Long, low pitched, stretched out and exaggerated what I assume were complaints. At the beginning of the third groan, Daddy moose moved quickly to the far bank, occupying the space in front of Mom and Junior, and without breaking stride led them quickly out of sight. They did not say goodbye.

I uncrossed myself, laid down and rested on the sounds from the moving water. Across the stream, a Finch landed on the lower branch, walked across it, floated down to the top log, took five steps to the right, hopped to the bottom log…

1 Like

Great story Steve! Most beautifully written and expressed. It was like reading a mystery novel that you can’t put down.

I recall you hinting at this encounter some time back… Thanks for sharing!

I’ve heard that more people are injured by moose than grizzlies in Alaska. I enjoyed your story very much.

One thing to know about moose: They kill by stomping.

And you didn’t get a shot?!?!?! Oh - I get it, I’m sure he was closer than your minimum focusing distance to get a shot! :wink:

Kidding of course - not to mention how threatening aiming a large barreled mechanical device would have been to his interpretation of your behavior.

Great story - truly a memorable experience. I’m sure I woulda got stomped by shivering madly.

As one of my favorite old timers so eloquently put it: “Some critters just make a camera nervous!”