Under the fading glow of the twilight, I tightened my boots and slung my backpack over my shoulder, my heart racing with anticipation. I had pledged to accompany a few newfound companions on an exhilarating trek through the untamed heart of the Grand Tetons, a realm that had captured my soul.
Within the depths of the park, we stumbled upon the grandest bull moose known to these lands. His antlers, like the outstretched fingers of a vengeful god, pierced the sky with their lethal edges. I observed, breathless, as the colossal beast effortlessly shed the velvet from its paddles, the sinewy muscles undulating beneath its dense fur.
Then, without warning, the moose charged!
Let’s rewind a couple days prior. I had been fortunate enough to capture stunning images of this very bull moose from an astonishingly close distance of just 25 yards. He was at the time engaged in the primal ritual of stripping his velvet against an evergreen tree.
See images below
The Grand Tetons had long been my haven, a refuge from the relentless pace of modern life. Over the course of a year and a half, roughly 500 full days within it’s forests, I had ventured into every hidden corner of this enchanted wilderness, following the paths of rivers and tracing the contours of its majestic mountains, all the while chronicling the lives of the magnificent moose.
Nature’s embrace had seduced me, and I found myself entranced by the beauty of my surroundings and the captivating wildlife within. My Facebook page had blossomed into a vibrant window to the world, through which I could share the tales of my daily sojourns with a community of passionate wildlife aficionados.
Each day, my reputation as a wildlife tracker would attract inquiries from both my Facebook followers and local residents, seeking my guidance in locating moose within the park. I was always more than willing to assist anyone eager to experience and capture the essence of these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. However, I remained vigilant in ensuring that my companions adhered to the regulations and guidelines established by the National Park Service.
On one particular morning, as I embarked on my hike near the junction of Gros Ventre Road and Campground, I was approached by a duo of eager photographers. They expressed interest in joining me on my quest that day as I went to observe one of the park’s resident moose (Shoshone – The King of the Tetons), which I did all summer long. I welcomed their company, and together, we ventured forth into the embrace of the wild.
We then started tracking through the forest, and after some time, we unexpectedly found ourselves just ten feet away from the most formidable bull moose in the park, who was slumbering peacefully in his very own bed. My heart raced at the sheer wonder of the moment, but I understood the importance of remaining composed. Mindful of the need to maintain a safe distance, we began to retreat cautiously, taking care not to rouse the sleeping giant.
However, as we stealthily navigated the forest, the telltale snap of a twig breaking beneath our feet shattered the silence. The moose awoke with a start, stretching vigorously as his colossal antlers swept through the surrounding bushes, shedding the last remnants of his velvet on a nearby tree.
In that instant, an unfamiliar sensation gripped me – fear. Yet, it was not my own fear, but maybe that of my hiking companions or maybe even the moose; one could never know. And as if on cue, the moose bolted! To our surprise, he chose to flee in the opposite direction. His hulking form quickly vanished into the encroaching twilight, leaving us standing there, bewildered by the turn of events.
We initially believed the moose had retreated for the night, disgruntled by the interruption to his rest. However, our attention was soon drawn back to the enormous bull moose as he charged in our direction, his antlers gleaming menacingly in the waning light. We knew we had to act swiftly.
My heart thumped wildly as I shouted to the others, “Run!” Together, we sprinted as fast as our legs would carry us towards the highway. We tore through the dense forest, our feet pounding the earth beneath us, gasping for breath as we fled.
As we raced towards the highway, our hearts hammering in our chests, an ominous feeling of dread washed over me. The sound of splintering branches and thundering hooves grew ever nearer, threatening to overtake us.
After covering approximately what felt like a mile at breakneck speed, we encountered a fallen tree blocking our path. At this time I was luckily ahead of the group and attempted to leap over it, but my foot snagged on a branch, sending me crashing to the ground. Glancing back for the first time, I saw the colossal bull moose still in hot pursuit. My mind raced, momentarily paralyzed by the realization of our perilous situation.
One of the photographers I was with luckily came to my aid, helping me to my feet, and together we managed to clear the obstacle. As we continued our frantic flight through the woods, I gasped for air, informing one of the photographers that I could barely breathe. It was astonishing to consider the thoughts that surged through my mind while being chased by such a formidable creature.
At last, we emerged from the forest’s edge, finding ourselves sprinting across a marshy expanse. As we splashed through the mire, my legs grew increasingly heavy and my lungs seared with fatigue.
But we had no choice – we had to press on. As we raced through the waterlogged marsh, a hill loomed before us. Moose are the only animal you can run from!” So, we persisted in our sprint.
Finally, we reached the highway, our bodies bruised and our spirits in tatters. The three of us burst from the forest, panting and gasping for air. I recall noticing cars driving by, their occupants seemingly indifferent to the sight of three disheveled individuals emerging from the woods. The vehicles continued on their way, and we turned around to assess our situation.
Fortuitously, the moose had halted his pursuit at the edge of the trees. Seizing the opportunity, we all retrieved our cameras and began to photograph the awe-inspiring animal that had just chased us. My hands trembled as I captured the remarkable scene.
See images below
Upon reflecting on that day, I realized just how close we had come to disaster. A single misstep or ill-advised decision could have led to a drastically different outcome. But we had emerged unscathed, and I pledged never to take the beauty of the natural world for granted again.
I don’t consider myself a professional, simply a student of life who cherishes the animals that inhabit this earth. This experience, however, taught me an invaluable lesson about moose behavior. Now equipped with greater knowledge, I can better recognize the warning signs and act accordingly. I am determined not to make the same mistake twice.
I hope this encounter helps people realize animals are truly wild, and we must remain respectful and vigilant. It is indeed possible to literally walk up on them while they are sleeping, as we did, which likely made the moose upset and irritable. Additionally, it was the beginning of the mating season. I offer this forewarning: situations can escalate quickly. Stay alert and respect the natural world around you.