I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Baby Moose

One day, about fourteen years ago - it was shortly after we moved to our current home - we were driving up the river early in the spring. Exactly what we were going to do, I have long since forgotten, but considering the time of year, I'm going to say we were primarily going to see if we could go anywhere. We live down a slough called Twenty Mile Slough. It's a drivable river most of the summer, but it gets interesting in the winter - the water gets really low before it freezes and we were out to see if it had come up enough for us to get out to the Yetna River. If we could do so soon enough, the boys could spend the last few days of school at the school house and have a chance to play with some of their friends before the summer was too busy for play.

This trip turned very interesting when the boys spotted a moose cow pacing back and forth along the edge of the bank. She was upset for some reason, and now even more so now that a boat was driving by. As I watched her, puzzling her actions, suddenly I noticed a baby moose standing chest deep in the just recently melted, ice cold water. This is one of the crueler examples of 'survival of the fittest'. Mother moose generally give birth on some kind of island if they can find one, and then move on as soon as their baby can keep up. This means swimming a river too. Moose have very long legs but mom doesn't always pick the best places to cross, plus the little ones likely take longer to swim across than their mother did and may end up in a bad spot for getting out of the water.

Of course, when I went, "Oh look, there's a baby. Can we do anything?" my husband tried (he was driving). We inched over to the bank. I crawled up on the very front of the boat and the boys both stood up and waved their arms. They may have been yelling too but I honestly don't remember; I was concentrating on this little bit of life in the water. It was standing on the ground, up to it's neck in the water, really wishing it could be somewhere else as this big thing came after it, but it couldn't go anywhere without swimming and I'm sure it was too exhausted and cold for that. I pulled it close by an ear and lifted it out of the water (not by it's ear). Then I tried to quickly shove it up on the bank. The top of this bank was still like four or five feet above the water's level, pretty much straight up, though the top curved down a bit. I got it that far up but the bank was still too steep for it to get all those legs under it without risk of tumbling back into the water so I had to stand up and give it an extra shove. Then it was "Here comes momma" an we had to get out of there fast.

Baby moose got all those legs under it and momma was happy to steer it away from us and the river as we backed away as quickly as we could. That is when all the fascinating little details sank in, never to be forgotten. The umbilical cord was still quite fresh so I'm thinking this baby was only a few hours old at the most. The fur was baby-hair soft (for a moose) and very fine. Even though it was wet, it felt so very soft, not at all like an adult's hair. From its little bony chest to its scrawny little butt, it was maybe eighteen inches long, however I swear from its shoulder to it's feet, it had to be three feet tall. That's my best estimate without having the time to even try to measure it against anything more familiar. I have no idea if it was a boy or a girl. I hope it lived to a ripe old age, but really there is no way of knowing.

Several years later I got to do it a second time with another baby moose - this one a bit older - maybe a month or so. The difference was amazing. It was stronger, the hair was more like momma's, and once it was up on solid ground, it took no time at all to jump up and run off with it's momma. They are hardy little creatures but the first year of their life is a hard one.