This was bound to eventually happen although I must admit that up until an hour ago I still viewed it as an abstract event; one of those things people think about and reflect upon but somehow never actually expect to see it become reality. I had a run in with an angry cow moose when solo backpacking in Kachemak Bay State Park in June of 2000 but she was just protecting her spring calf which was hidden in some waist deep grass in a forest clearing. In this sense her protective reaction was entirely expected and even normal but then what just transpired maybe half a mile from my place also falls into that category.
As it looks like rain I decided to get the ‘kidz’ – as I jokingly refer to my 120 pound female Alaskan Malamute ‘Anana’ and my 86 pound male German Shepherd Dog ‘Qanuk’ – out for some exercise such that I might spare my home of the mud and gravel they track in when wet. We started off heading east down East Barge Drive towards the Riven cut off; in the past year we’ve walked this road more times than I care to remember. In typical fashion the dogs were ranging out in front of me by 15 to 75 feet and making many side trips into the boreal forest which surrounds this area. I had passed John and Ruth’s driveway and was most of the way across the swampy muskeg area to the north of East Barge Drive and starting up the hill when I saw both dogs freeze. In perfect harmony they raised their noses almost straight up into the air and then swiveled their heads to the west which is boreal forest. Qanuk was continuing to sniff the air but Anana had dropped her nose and was scanning the forest with real intensity. She has the best eyesight of any canine I’ve seen and she was definitely employing it at that moment.
Suddenly she shot into the forest like a rocket with Qanuk in pursuit. I was looking but couldn’t see anything although given it was overcast and rather gray anything under the forest canopy was in deep shadow. I started fumbling for my Canon SX-260 PowerShot ‘point and shoot’ camera which I often carry with me because it is so very portable and takes great images. I started extracting it from my jacket pocket when I heard Anana yelp and then a loud conundrum broke out within the forest. Anana came running from the forest onto the road with a wild look in her eyes and she was heading straight for me. A few seconds later I saw a large brown cow moose break the cover of the forest and take to the road in hot pursuit of Anana. Time immediately slowed to that adrenaline enhanced crawl and I can now remember distinctly what transpired over the next maybe 20 seconds which seemed like an eternity.
My first thought was; “Oh Shit, this isn’t good!” as I saw Anana closing on me with the moose in hot pursuit. My second thought was; “Damn, I didn’t bring the pepper spray!” and my third thought was; “Time to run…NOW!”. Thankfully there are lots of sizable spruces and birch trees right along the side of the road and I immediately tried to put one of these between me and the charging moose. I remembered from my experience in Kachemak Bay State Park that moose are incredibly fast when they want and they appear about the size of a freight train locomotive when they are bearing down on you. Anana ran to me and the moose followed but Anana only waited by me for a few seconds before she realized I wasn’t going to be much help and headed further into the forest. The moose snorted as she raced by me but thankfully kept going after Anana. At this point I saw a brown/gray blur whiz past me and into the forest after the moose; it was Qanuk. With his appearance I breathed a sigh of relief because he obviously wasn’t injured and he was going to help his buddy Anana.
I heard the sounds of a lot of breaking branches and heavy breathing in the direction the ‘kidz’ and the moose had disappeared; within maybe a minute Anana popped out on the road perhaps 50 feet west of me and Qanuk was right with her. I briefly saw the moose pop out of the tree line but I think she figured she made her point and she probably rethought the wisdom of messing with two large dogs so she just stopped, gave the dog’s one last look as if to say; “Take That..!” and then reversed direction and headed back into the forest. To my surprise Anana looked like she was going to follow but I immediately intervened. I called both of them back to me and checked them over; thankfully no cuts were in evidence and they had all four limbs, both ears and a tail to boot! I then hustled them the final third of a mile or so to our driveway and put them in the house.
Just the previous week I’d shared a story with a college buddy via e-mail involving the kidz chasing a local moose; in doing so I said I’d confirmed Anana would run back to me if frightened and remarked this would not be good if she’d irritated a grizzly. In addition I’d mused I should probably start carrying the pepper spray once again as I’d become lax in doing so across the summer. I hadn’t heeded my own advice and almost ended up paying a nasty price for my negligence. There’s no need for people just walking or biking around this area to carry pepper spray but because I have two dogs with me and I allow them largely free reign I need to be better prepared. I knew this yet I allowed my ‘comfort’ with the area to get the better of me. In true Alaskan fashion I was just reminded that this area is home to many large mammals and because I’m invading their home I’d best be prepared!!