When you live in Alaska, a lot of people have preconceived notions of what your life must be like–I suppose like any well-known region, they believe what they see about it on television, or they assume things based on widely distributed ideas or misinterpreted facts. I feel it’s incredibly important to try and get these facts right, so maybe I have a chance to straighten things up one post at a time. Moose (Alces alces), as they are known in North America–they’re called Elk in Europe–are the largest member of the deer family. They’re even bigger in the Alaskan and Yukon regions, ranging from 800 lbs. (small adult female) to 1,600 lbs. (large adult male) and reaching nearly six feet in height. Suffice it to say, these animals although beautiful and majestic are not something that you want to run into in the middle of the night on your way to the outhouse.
While it’s true that Moose are not inherently dangerous animals–they’re herbivorous, they eat willow, birch, and aspen leaves and twigs, as well as sedges, Equisetum, pond weeds, and grasses–they tend to have a reputation in Alaska, one that warrants telling people to be careful if they happen to run into one. The truth is, these animals are very wary of their surroundings–they are considered prey animals, their main predators being wolves, black bears, brown bears, and of course–humans. I’m incredibly surprised that I was able to take such a close shot of this particular pregnant cow, but she was too busy fattening up for the winter on pond weeds to bother with a shutter bug at the side of the road. I suppose I’m lucky though, even pregnant she was probably more dangerous than any bear I could have run into and considering they can run nearly 30 mph, there was no way I would have been able to outrun her.
Moose aren’t too concerned with where they are, whether they’re crossing the dark icy roads, traipsing cluelessly through the streets of town, or stubbornly standing between you and your outhouse, chances are you’re more likely to be hurt than they are. So a heads up to anyone coming to Alaska from out of state, whether you’re here for business or pleasure, be smart when you see a moose. Don’t approach the animal, don’t try to pet it, they’re not as cuddly as they may seem.