As winter starts to settle in, the moose are headed down from the high places, and we get to see more moose than we do during the warmer months of the year. As the snow gets deeper, we will see more moose in the roadways than normal as well, which is scary in the dark. This morning we had some moose visitors, a cow and 2-year-old male calf, around our yard. We own a large open area of land that is swampy and wet all summer, but the area is now frozen, and the moose can move more freely out in the open. Not that we don’t see them out there in the summer, they have really long legs and don’t seem to be exceptionally concerned by all the grass, muck and brush, but they can’t move as fast, consequently they tend to stay near the edges up in the trees and only venture out in the open when they are quickly crossing to the other side, usually later in the evening. For some reason however, in the winter they spend more time out in the open. They probably know hunting season is over!

I have lived in Alaska for 26 years; my husband and children were all born here, but when a moose wanders through, we all still stop and watch, often taking lots of pictures. They are impressive animals, and when they get up close, you can really see how big they really are. They are exceptionally quick on their feet for their size and have been known to stomp anything in their paths they feel is a threat in anyway, be it animals or humans. We are fortunate not to have too many scary stories with moose, but we have heard quite a number of scary encounters with moose from many, many people.

My oldest daughter still remembers vividly meeting a moose one day. She was only 5 or 6 years old. The kids were outside playing in the snow after school. She found some moose tracks out near one side of the building and, not realizing they were fresh tracks, she started following along the path they created. She said she was engrossed in the path when she stopped to rest and looked up to realize she was almost nose to nose with a large moose. It startled her, but the moose had seen her coming. Fortunately, the moose was more curious by this small child than afraid, and just stood there. She said she was close enough she could have reached out and touched its nose. My daughter had enough sense to back away slowly, and now has a fun story, with a happy ending, to tell people who are curious about moose. Please note, this kind of up-close encounter with a is moose and not being attacked is the exception, not the rule.

My sons and I had a bit more of a scare with a moose one summer afternoon. We had been out running. I am not as fast as they were, and we were almost home so my older son decided to run ahead and beat us home. He rounded the corner coming up to our house and startled a large moose. At that point I am grateful the moose didn’t attack him, but instead decided to run away from him through the woods, directly at me and my youngest son. My older son yelled “MOOSE!” just as I saw it come into view. I saw the moose look directly at us, running full tilt, lay its ears back, lower its head and charge. I yelled at my younger son to follow me. He doesn’t always listen very well but must have felt the urgency and we ran around the back of the nearest building, around the side and into our shop building. The moose was more concerned about getting out of danger than it was attacking us and kept running. I’m grateful we had somewhere to go rather than just being out in the open.

This year we have had moose out in the yard, not a lot, but enough to make my daughter’s dog be on alert a lot. She is a very quiet dog, rarely barking, but she loves barking at the moose. This morning we were alerted to the moose in the swamp by her barking. She has always kept a healthy distance from the moose, but these were quite a bit closer than normal, and they were ignoring her. She gave us a scare as she decided to run closer. We’re not sure if she was trying to scare them away or exert her dominance and let them know this was her territory, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have hesitated, if she had gotten close enough to stomp at. She is still in training but has about a 95% recall for her name and “come.” This was a huge distraction for her, and we had to call 3 times, but she finally decided to obey and came back so we could bring her inside and out of harm’s way. I was impressed that she didn’t get much closer when we called, and grateful that she came back.

Alaska has a lot of wildlife. Whether you’re in a city or a more rural area, or out in the middle of nowhere, you will see wildlife. The most important thing however is to remember that they are just that, wildlife. They aren’t pets or tame in any way and should be viewed from a safe distance. This world we live in is such a beautiful place and I am grateful that I get to see some of its beauty every single day.

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