Moose are generally peaceful animals but can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Their Power can easily be underestimated. They can be taller than a horse, weigh up to 1500 pounds and run up to 35 miles per hour. And they have poor eyesight. They can and have killed people. This recent popular video of the elk headbutting the photographer illustrates the potential dangers of getting close to a wild animal.
I’ve always used caution while photographing animals. Still, that hasn’t kept me from having a few interesting and close calls that had me fearing for my Safety. One fall morning I found a large gathering of bull moose near a cow moose in heat. I watched from the safety of a heavily treed area as the males approached each other. Tilting their heads back and forth to the side to magnify the size of their antlers to intimidate each other and battle for the female. I became comfortable enough that they were occupied with these battles that I eased into the clearing to photograph closer. Soon the dominant male looked directly at me, started slowly walking my direction, tilting his head to show me his massive antlers. My first thought was “No, no…..this is a mistake…..I’m no competition buddy and I do not want to butt heads with you”. I slowly walked backwards towards the safety of the trees when I realized there was another male approaching from off to my left to join this party. This was where the dominant male was headed although the angle had made it look like I was his intended target.
One summer day I was photographing a young moose after working my way from the woods to a clearing with a single tree. I felt safe here since moose cannot climb a tree, and although fast, cannot run as tight of a circle as I can. This moose was seemingly oblivious to me as I clicked image after image. Suddenly he stopped eating and looked directly at me. Then he approached the tree. The tree was large and the trunk split into a “Y” near the height of my chest. This is where this moose placed his head, stared directly at me and let out a few little whimpers like a puppy dog. While it seemed he was more intent on playing than giving harm, I wasn’t comfortable with this attention. Then, he decided it was time for us to travel around the tree a few times. I struggled to stay on the opposite side while juggling my camera, camera bag and tripod. Then, he just walked away and continued his feast like I no longer existed. About 50 yards away stood a large gathering of trees near a trail that I had traveled to get to this location. After giving this moose more time to forget about me, I hugged my gear as tight as I could, took a glance to make sure the moose wasn’t looking, and made a dash for those trees. About half way there, the moose remembered me. He decided it was time for a race to the trees. I made it first but only just in time to get behind the first tree and watch him blast by within arms length. Now, in the safety of the trees I was able to slip away as he continued lunch.