It was easily seven feet tall at the shoulder, with long legs. Big spread of antlers. A showy rack. I’d heard that antlers like that can flip a person over a tree if things go bad.
I wasn’t worried. This moose looked lazy. Not moving. Sleepy-eyed, and busily chewing something. Too gawky to be a threat. A big, slow bull.
Well, that theory’s bull. I can laugh now. Actually, the moose did some laughing at the time. Or at least I thought he did.
I was somewhere near Yellowstone, in the woods. I’d seen a Western Tanager and other birds that we don’t have back home.
Gray Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, Steller’s Jays, a Golden Eagle overhead, big noisy Ravens; and a few Northern Flickers, that are called “Red-Shafted” out west.
These have red under their wings, a red Nike swoosh on their faces instead of a black one like eastern Flickers have. And no red on their heads. Quirky little regional variations in design.
Then I saw a dark brown animal and I stopped caring about the design of red-shafted Northern Flickers. At first I thought it might’ve been a grizzly. If it had been, I’d have been meat.
But it was a moose. I’d never seen one before. I had a camera, and the animal wasn’t moving. This was going to be good. I eased in for a better look.
The moose heard one camera click too many, too near, and spun toward me. Fast. Faster than a horse. I’d never seen any big animal move like that. Quick feet for a monster. Its racked-up head swung toward me and dipped, a clear sign that it meant business.
I’d seen bison earlier, and a distant bear, too. Both bison and bear, though big, moved slowly. The moose was bigger. How could it be coming on like a lightweight fighter?
I took off. He might be faster on paper, but this wasn’t on paper, and I don’t think anything could’ve caught me.
But I ran into boggy ground I hadn’t noticed. Soon my feet sunk to the ankles. Wet mud grabbed my boots. I went down on my belly. Got a face full of warm glop. It tasted like worm.
My camera was under me but didn’t get ruined. Neither did I, as it turned out. When I looked for the moose, it was way back there, pulling up vegetation, unconcerned.
But I heard him laugh. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the vegetation he was chewing; it was laughter.
I couldn’t blame the moose. I’d run into a bog and fell in mud. He’d made his point (“Don’t get so damn close, camera boy!”), and I looked like a clown.
All in all, a good experience and fun memory. It emphasized what I already knew: when you go bird watching you sometimes see other things.
Once I saw nudists in a creek. Once, I saw a fox chasing several deer—an inexplicable incident. There’s more to bird watching than watching birds.
And another thing to know: big, lumbering characters should not be underestimated. They can be faster than they look. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a sense of humor, but don’t count on it.