Christmas Eve Moose Visitation
Does anybody ever get used to this? If I live here for twenty years, I don't think I will. I know, I know, it is so common around here people just yawn and say, "Oh, yeah, another moose." It is a frequent occurrence for people who live in downtown Anchorage, for Pete's sake (and Anchorage isn't really IN Alaska, though, as they say, you can see Alaska from there).
This does NOT happen in Bethel. In my ten years of living there, I never once saw a moose within a hundred miles of Bethel. Occasionally one would wander into the area and you'd hear about it all over town for days, along with plenty of envy for the guy who saw it first and got it into his freezer to feed the family for the next several months.
With the five-year moratorium on moose hunting on the lower Kuskokwim River, now in its fourth year, the moose population in the area is coming back strongly. A few miles upriver from Bethel where there are stands of cottonwood and fir trees, signs of moose presence are everywhere: bark stripped from the trees at the six-foot level, snow churned up, big hoof prints, and lots of piles of moose turds. But they don't wander into town, and surely are not browsing the shrubberies around people's homes.
Yesterday this young moose cow and her calf were doing exactly that. Mother and I were inside doing something or other when Mother looked out the window and said "Oh, my goodness! There is a moose right next to the house!"
And she was, just about two feet from the back door. She turned and looked directly at me, and was completely unperturbed. I was snapping photos like mad through the window while she continued to munch down our bushes around the deck. She reminded me of the young moose on the opening sequence of the old TV show "Northern Exposure" (which, by the way, is available from Netflix if you are interested). Clearly, moose have not been hunted around here for a very long time. She had no fear, despite having a young calf.
We never got a good look at the calf. It was on the far side of a downed tree, eating the tips. As mom moved off slowly, the calf trailed her, and I could see that it was very young and small, probably only eight or nine months old.
What a Christmas Eve gift! Mother and I were both elated to have had such a close encounter, and one that lasted a good half hour or so. I do have to admit to having had a few thoughts about how tasty that moose would be, but I am just not a hunter. Short of my family's starvation, I would not look down the barrel and pull the trigger on Bullwinkle. But I'm happy to eat him when someone else does, and extremely good eating it is, too.
It is an incredible feeling to have wild animals in your immediate environment. We have black and brown bears around here too, though I am a little less excited to see them next to the back door. Gawd, I love Alaska!
Labels: Life in Kenai