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The Moose

My neighbor just had his 85th birthday.  He’s lived in the Valley all his life.  His father homesteaded here back in the early 1900’s.  I love to hang out with him, help with his two horses, and pick his brain for stories.  He knows this country like I might know all the shortcuts in my old hometown neighborhood.  Except his neighborhood is vast, wild, without roads or trails.

I’ve learned over time that, although his memory for details and names is way better than mine, the time periods and placements of events need to be sorted out.  He might tell a tale like it was last week, until I question him more and find out the events took place in the 30’s.  It took me a while to figure out that most of his Yellowstone stories were from the 50’s (when he worked there) rather than just 10 or 20 years ago.

I’d been seeing quite a few moose lately.  One came into my yard the other day, a resident who likes to hang in the marshy willows nearby.  Moose numbers for Wyoming are really low, only 44% of objective, according to a just published Game and Fish report.  I told this to JB and that got him storytelling.

Moose walking down my road at dusk

Moose walking down my road at dusk

Moose in nearby meadow

Moose in nearby meadow

Young bull moose in front yard

Young bull moose in front yard

“It was a snowy winter and I was at the homestead.  I’d feed the cows at the bottom of the pasture near the trees to get them walking a bit.  That’s good for them you know, especially for the pregnant ones.  One day I was down in the timber when I saw a cow moose and three calves.  There were stuck there in a hole and couldn’t get out, the drifts were so bad.  They were real skinny and starving down there.  When the momma saw me, her hair stood on end.”

“So I brought a few bales of hay on my sleigh over.  Every day I’d come to check on them and the cow moose got used to me.  I’d bring them hay, but each day I’d place it a little bit further out of the timber towards the pasture.  Slowly, they came out.  They spent that entire winter in the pasture with my cows.”

Clarks fork drainage near Russell Creek.

Clarks fork drainage near Russell Creek.

“Another time I was way up Dead Indian, you know where the willows are up there?”

I nodded.  I’d seen moose tracks there.  Its about 3 miles or more up the trail.

“I was up there and saw a bull moose.  He’d been shot and was bleeding from the side.  Some hunter shot him but the moose had run off.  He was in real bad shape and the snows were getting deep.  I hauled 20 bales of hay up to him.  I didn’t put it all in one place.  I put it around in the timber where he was at.  Then I left him for the winter.  Come early spring, I went back to check on him.  You know what I found?  He had a friend.  Another bull had come in there and all that hay was gone.  That bull was all healed up and getting around fine now.  I don’t really know how he survived that wound, cause I think he was bleeding on both sides. There had been blood around.  But he made it.”

Dead Indian Creek

Dead Indian Creek

To begin to get a feeling for what’s going on with moose numbers in Wyoming, this is an excellent thesis by Scott Becker.

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2 Responses

  1. Moose are one of my favorite critters. Their bodies are so intriguing to me. They look like they were “designed by a committee,” or maybe fashioned from spare parts! But when they shake a leg, they fly like a racehorse! The combo of the skinny legs and enormous shoulder and barrel is so visually contrary, but I know Mother nature makes things perfectly for survival. Fascinating animal. Bonnie

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  2. The closest I’ve ever been to one of those varmints was about a hundred feet. I was standing in the road at our fish camp at what was then the 719th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron near Lime Village, Alaska.
    That thing came over the rise and slowly walked past me like a draft horse going to the pasture. I froze in my tracks and watched him out of the corners of my eyes until he was past. He may have winded me then, because he increased his speed and forded the river, then turned to look.
    I had my Super-8 Kodak up and filming by then. It was an encounter I will never forget!.

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