Encounters of the dangerous kind

Columnist explores moose encounters at her home in northern B.C.

I was walking through the horse pasture yesterday when suddenly Mindy, our Morgan, pricked her ears forward and stared at the forest that edges the pasture. Then she started to snort and prance. I looked towards the spot that had caught her attention and saw a dark shape moving steadily through the trees in our direction. Of course you know what I was thinking.

I stood rooted to the ground, my eyes bugging out of my head watching the enormous shape move towards me. Fear can make the smallest object appear bigger than it really is, but this really was enormous. It wasn’t just big for a bear; it was big for a bus. It was like three bears stacked on each other’s shoulders. It was the sort of bear that could eat Mindy for an appetizer, Mage for the entree and gobble me down for dessert. And still have room for chickens, sheep and a couple hives of honey. I watched it steadily advance while my knees turned to jelly. When it sailed effortlessly over the fence I realized, to my great relief, it wasn’t a bear at all. Instead a massive bull moose joined us in the pasture.

He took in his pasture mates, shook his big head and then slowly dissected the field jumping the fence on the other side with equal ease.Why is it that I have such a mad fear of bears, but am calm around moose?

For the past five or six years a cow moose and her current calf have spent their winters in our yard. She licks the lilacs, munches on the apple trees and swallows berry bushes in three lazy chews. When I’m feeling Zen I admire her beauty and don’t begrudge her dining habits…too much. On my grouchier days I hurl a few snowballs in her direction or wave my snow shovel in a threatening manner. The outcome is the same. She ignores me.

Last February I woke up to the sound of what I thought was Darcy opening the closet door to get dressed for work. And then I realized Darcy was still beside me in bed. Darcy thought I was opening and shutting the bedside table. As the banging noise continued we gaped at one another in the moonlight. Goosebumps landed on top of Goosebumps. What was making the noise?

Sitting up to source the sound, Darcy announced, “There’s a moose at the window!”

I sat up beside him and sure enough, there framed in the window at the foot of our bed was a massive silhouette of a moose head. As we stared in amazement the moose bunted the window pane.

“What should we do? What should we do?” I babbled, thinking the window was going to smash to pieces at any moment.

“Turn on the light!” Darcy said.

I jumped up and hit the switch on my side of the bed. We ventured towards the window and saw the cow and her yearling bull calf. Turning on the light startled the cow moose enough to move away from our window, but not enough to leave the yard. Instead she started head butting her calf which was almost as big as she was. We watched as they shoved foreheads, staggering in turn back and forth. We could hear their guttural enraged lowing noises and could only assume we were witnessing either a weaning or a mother at wit’s end with her terrible teen.

Darcy ran for his camera. He returned, shut off the lights and turned on the camera. The moose stopped fighting and gaped at the digital light of the camera and then fled like someone had lit their heads on fire. We didn’t get a picture but it’s an image we’re not likely to forget. And if we are ever awoken by a moose bunting our window pane again at least we know what to do. Grab the camera!

Having a moose come knocking in the night isn’t the weirdest wildlife encounter we have ever had, but it’s up there. But what’s really weird is how moose encounters don’t bother me, but bears fill me with horror. Moose can be just as unpredictable and dangerous as a bear. Moreover, I have at least one moose encounter a week and the moose rarely runs. I have one bear encounter a decade and the bear always runs. And yet if we had awoken to a bear knocking on our window I would have lost my mind. As it were, all I had was moose bumps.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com.


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