Laughing Moose.

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.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

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?

Easily seven feet at the shoulder...

Easily seven feet at the shoulder…

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 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.

5 Responses to “Laughing Moose.”

  1. Dok says:

    One of the best realizations of the incredible speed and quickness of this amazing animal I have ever read – Thanks. I live with these guys, they are often in my yard, even more often in my town, and their quickness and agility never cease to amaze me. I have learned to never make assumptions when they are around. Always give them more room than you think you should and all the respect they deserve.
    Thanks again.

  2. Lee Dager says:

    Hey Mike, I think the hidden bird of the month is an – – – – – – – -. It reminds me of when I was a kid living in Asheville, N.C. They would come to my dad’s feeders in the back yard every year. I guess I got my interest in watching the birds from him. Thanks for the site and keep up the good work. Lee

  3. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    Hey, a crash with a roo would be high adventure to us. And the birds of Australia…or Oz…as it’s known in slang, are a whole other world for Americans. You guys may not have the big animals like moose, but your beer cans make ours look puny. Thanks for the comment, Geoff.

  4. Geoff Pritchard says:

    What a beautifully described action incident! I’ve walked up quite close for photos in Rocky Mntns NP but the bull stayed on the other side of his ladies. I might be thinking about risk and escape paths next time! We have a fantastic range of birds here in Oz and seldom are at risk from such powerful animals… apart from an overly friendly large Kangaroo at a picnic venue, or a recent experience when a large roo nearly jumped into my passing open car, when I was saved by the A pillar. He jumped away bruised and probably annoyed but I had 3 panels to fix!

  5. Moose do seem to have a sense of humor. The only bull Moose my wife and I have seen was also in Yellowstone, but much further away. As soon as we got in a position to take pictures, it started ambling away. I think it must have liked Monty Python’s French knights, as it did much more than fart in our general direction. Then it disappeared into the trees.

    But I guess I’d rather that than what happened to you!