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Wild encounters with Alaska wildlife
peeking
smoore
As of two days ago I've been in Alaska for nine months. I'd always heard that Anchorage is such a new city that a lot of wildlife still lives in the city, so here I thought I would talk about some of my (very!) close encounters with Anchorage's moose population. You may remember my first "holy crap moose are all up in these neighborhoods" moment, but it goes waaay beyond that. I take great pleasure in presenting to you

Stacey's Death-Defying Encounters With Wildlife Thus Far,

A Play


Act One

The Scene: a crisp winter's day in April. Sienna and I are frolicking about in Far North Bicentennial Park as is our wont before the bears start waking up.

The Action: We're making our way along a narrow trail when all of a sudden I see my tiny puppy put her front paws on a rock and utterly silently point the way that most retrievers know how to do:


A lab puppy (not Sienna) at point
This is what Sienna did


This kind of surprises me but it sure doesn't surprise me more than what I saw when I walked another two steps -- a moose chowing down on whatever moose on their starvation diets chow down on in the winter. Oh shit. The last thing I want to do is startle a starving moose who has finally found a food supply. In about 2.3 total microseconds I scoop up my pup and do a total 180o turn and head straight out of moose-land. I was impressed by my two-month old dog because she alerted me to the situation without barking or chasing the moose (ie pissing it off). Sweet, I thought. I've got a useful dog! Ha. Famous last words. Read on....

Act Two

The Scene: Again, Far North Bicentennial Park in April.

The Action: Sienna and I are passing a beautiful open meadow (a thawed version of which was depicted on my blog's Spring 2006 masthead) that I have often seen moose grazing in from afar. We're walking down the trail when all of a sudden of the corner of my eye I see something large and brown emerge from the treeline about fifty or sixty yards away. This moose was on a mission and meant business -- he (she? it was before their antlers started growing back in) made a direct beeline for Sienna and I. I look ahead to Sienna who has no clue about the 800 pounds of Riverdancing death headed straight for us, so I quicken my pace, scoop up the oblivious puppy and walk (not run!) as fast as I can down the trail. Even with as quickly as I'm moving I see the moose cross the trail not ten feet behind us and (luckily) decide to let us go on our way.

Act Three

The Scene: May. Enjoying one of our last walks in Far North Bicentennial before the bears start stirring.

The Action: Sienna and I are walking down a narrow trail in a heavily wooded part of the park. As usual I have my moose radar on -- since Act One I've been wary about coming upon moose unawares. All of a sudden I hear a huge CRASH! to my immediate right and in addition to my entire life flashing before my eyes I am thinking ohshithere'sabearandhe'sgonnaeatme OH GOD I AM GOING TO DIE. My heart has accelerated from 60 to 18,000 bpm in the span of about one nanosecond and all of a sudden I realize that it's a fucking grouse. I've never been one to want to walk around in the woods in camo holding a gun and killing things to take home to eat, but let me tell you, any bird that waits huddled up in the ground until someone is right there to take off and fly into a tree is a bird that deserves to die. Can I get an amen from the hunters in the audience?


Fucking grouse!
This bird shall FEEL MY WRATH


Meanwhile, Sienna is oblivious (starting to see a pattern here?). Aside from that first point, she's shown no aptitude whatsoever for being a bird dog! Jeez, she's supposed to flush those things out for me!

Intermission

I suggest you take a gander at definite evidence of my occasional stupidity: too-close-for-comfort moose shots

Act Four

The Scene: University Lake dog park. June.

The Action: Sienna and I around out for a jog. I'm especially alert tonight -- the last couple of days I have seen a mama moose and a ridiculously gangly baby on the trail. I'm getting close to the place where I typically see them on the trail and start trying to scan ahead to see around the curves when all of a sudden I hear a snort and a snap to my immediate right. I snap my head over and I am looking eye to eye at mama moose from the wet-your-pants-scary distance of eight inches. I am eternally grateful for three things at that precise moment: 1) that baby is at her shoulder and not on the other side of the trail, else I would have looked like hamburger helper by the time mama was done with me, 2) that I am already running, and 3) that my dog is, again, oblivious.

Act Five

The Scene: South Anchorage Sports Park, a most excellent locale for throwing tennis balls. August.

The Action: While Sienna is going nuts doing her fetch thing, we are approached by a man and his Great Dane. We chat pleasantly for a few minutes before he continues on his way. One minute later, what do I see? A mama moose and two disappointingly un-gangly babies (*sniff* they grow up so fast!) have paraded onto the soccer field and are headed for the woods where my fellow dog owner is walking. "MOOSE!" I yell at him. He turns around and shouts back "WHERE?" I'm so flustered by the appearance of what is by all accounts a dangerous mama since she has two babies with her and has undoubtedly just crossed one of Anchorage's most busy roads at six PM to get to the park that all I can do is lamely point and again yell "MOOSE!" Even though this tells him precious little, it's not like it's hard to find three big moose barreling your way, so he turns tail and comes back my way. Guess he and his dog won't be getting his romp in the woods that night.

I'll give you a gold star if you can predict what Sienna was like during all of this, even though I was putting her leash on her as fast as I could. If you guessed "She was oblivious," congratulations -- YOU WIN! See me in person to collect your prize.

Epilogue
I wouldn't be blaming you if at this point you were thinking "Holy shit -- dem's moose are ballsy!" The scary thing is that they're only going to get worse -- rut is coming up which means the males are going to start getting crazily territorial whilst competing for mates.

Maybe Sienna and I will be staying indoors this fall.

Fin.</em>

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Amen on the birds thing, fo' sho'.

Shooting birds on the wing isn't too hard though, and even if the bird had "the advantage of surprise" against a shooter, it's still possible to bag 'em before they score too much speed or distance. =>


PS Good moose shots.

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