The Story of a Moose Calf
You never know what you will see in Katmai and this day was no exception. After landing on Hallo Creek and deplaning, we walked north on “bear interstate,” the main north/south bear trail through Hallo Bay. Along our way we stopped several times, watching these magnificent animals frolic in the early season sun, doing what bears do. We continued for another hour along a finger of Middle Creek, crossed it, and as we came around a small sand dune, we all came to an abrupt halt.
What are we looking at?
What is that in the distance? What are we looking at? At our distance, we couldn’t tell exactly what it was with the naked eye, and it looked weird, out of place. So, binoculars came out and we finally figured it out, and we couldn’t believe our eyes. What is a moose doing out here? What is a cow moose with a new calf doing out here? What is a momma moose with a new calf doing out here surrounded by bears? Yes, she was surrounded—we counted nine bears within 200 years of her and her gangly, long legged calf. Our concern for her and her calf ramped up as we took note of her ruffled hair and calf bedded down directly beneath its protective mother. Not a good place for a calf to be. After all, it is a good meal for a hungry bear. We were over 400 yards away at this time and decided to remain at that distance so we did not cause the cow moose to take her calf in a really bad direction.
Don’t Wake a Sleeping Bear
We slowly walked along the finger of Middle Creek and as we rounded a bend, I looked up on a grassy knoll where bear tend to catch a little shut eye, and all stop! There, on the ledge, was a brown fuzzy thing all curled up and snuggled down with his nose tucked up under his paw for a mid-morning snooze (how cute is that). We were a mere twenty yards from a sleeping bear, this happens sometimes (not on purpose). I looked back at our guests making sure everyone was aware of the bear, I saw nothing but grinning from ear to ear and heard hushed giggling. So, yes, everyone saw the bear. Silly me, what was I thinking!? What a wonderful surprise to see this bear sleeping peacefully. We remained quiet (“don’t wake a sleeping bear” comes to mind) and watched him for a few minutes before he woke up, yawned, stretched, and basically said “good morning.” Now awake, he didn’t waste any time coming off the ledge, down to our level with one step. He then gave us a quick glance, crossed in front of us as if he was on a mission, then beelined it to a tasty and needed meal. His favorite dish after a mid-morning nap, delicious Goose Tongue. What an amazing experience and photo opportunity this is.
Is the Moose Calf Okay?
We watched him, momma moose, and her calf for some time, then when he was far enough away, we continued on our adventure. Questions raced through our minds and discussions began. Was the calf hurt? Was mom? How are they going to get out of this sticky situation and how did they get here? Where did they come from? Were they chased or attacked? So many questions unanswered. She stood vigilant over her calf for the better part of our trip only moving slightly with her ears occasionally laid flat against her head (this is a sign of agitation and aggression). The calf eventually got up and to our delight started to prance around, kicking and running around mom. Big, big, big sighs of relief were heard throughout our group. The calf seems to be okay, however, there are still lots of bear nearby, including one little yearling cub who was extremely curious. The small cub kept approaching the moose and closed to about 75 yards before playfully scurrying back to its mother. The little cub probably had never seen a moose or a calf about its size and good grief just wanted to play.
We continued on our trip and saw numerous other bears, but we were always curious about the calf. We soon had to get back to the plane and lost sight of the moose. During our 2-mile hike back to the plane, the tide had come in, pushing her out of the creek bottom and to parts unknown. As we took off, we all stretched our necks as close to the windows as possible to find her, but nothing. Our pilot even tilted the wings so we can get a better view, but we still saw nothing. There wasn’t a commotion in the meadow, no chasing or fighting as we passed by. Calm and peace were still the rule, she must have gotten out okay.
I talked to the rangers over the next few days and they reassured me that the moose and calf got out unscathed as they found no sign of anything otherwise.
The Course of Nature
During the moose calving season, they do come down to the coast to eat seaweed but normally go back to the woods when the bear start arriving in the meadows. Some people have witnessed bear attacking moose calves in the area, and it is a natural process for bear to prey on moose. By no means were we ever going to get between a bear attacking the moose and calf if it did occur. We are there to observe the bear, nature, and let it take its’ course however sad or brutal it may be. Our guest, as normal, were exceptional with understanding our philosophy. Moose, particularly a cow with calves, are very protective and can kill a bear with one strike of their hoof. With all the lush green Goose Tongue, sedges, and grass, the bear were probably satiated and showed no interest in the calf or being hurt by the cow.