LIVING THE BIG SKY

Searching for Bullwinkle the Moose in Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Lake, Col. – “Well, there’s Rocky… now where’s Bullwinkle?” my husband joked as a squirrel scampered across the snow-packed trail we tromping along in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Seeing a moose never gets old. They’re ginormous, lanky, domineering, elusive, goofy, beautiful animals.

We had heard that the Colorado River near the Grand Lake entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park was a hot spot for January moose sightings, so that’s where we ventured. Our dear friend that we were visiting in Denver had never seen a moose before and had made it her mission to see one in the wild – especially after her family’s recent move to Colorado from New Orleans. It was pretty tough to spot a moose during a Louisiana swamp tour, but their odds improved dramatically when they moved to the mountains. 😉

IMG_3257As I said before, moose are goofy, beautiful animals. But, like most animals, they can also become defensive and will not hesitate to protect themselves if they feel threatened. So, even though we were determined to help our friend check off an item on her bucket list, Miles and I were a bit weary of actually encountering one on the trail.

The National Park System has some tips for staying safe during a moose encounter:

  • Give Moose plenty of room!
  • Watch for signs that the moose is upset – if its ears are laid back and hackles are up it is likely to charge.
  • If you do find yourself close to a moose…
  • If it hasn’t detected you yet, keep it that way.
  • If it knows you’re there, talk to it softly and move away slowly.
  • Don’t be aggressive – you want to convince the moose that you aren’t a threat.
  • It is okay to run from a moose – they usually won’t chase you. If a moose knocks you down, curl up in a ball, cover your head with your arms and keep still.

Alright, now that we’ve established the proper way to handle a moose encounter… we can get excited about seeing a moose again. 🙂

IMG_3244There were moose tracks all around our snow-packed trail; surely we were bound to spot one standing along the snowy Colorado River, nestled in the brush in one of the valleys, or standing on top of a cliff ledge. You know, like a scene from Bambi… standing tall and prominent on the edge of a sheer rock with his mountains behind him. Yeah, yeah… I know, wrong animal… but how cool would that be?!

We were nearing the end of our hike and we still hadn’t seen our moose. We had heard that there were a few in the trailhead parking lot earlier that day, so we were starting to feel like we had missed the boat. But then… da da daaaa! There he was! IMG_3275A young, bull moose was standing right in the middle of the parking lot where we had begun our hike just a couple hours earlier. He was busy chomping away on some the slushy, salty ice “droppings” left by vehicles that had moved on to the next great sight to see. Our friend was ecstatic. Her dream had come true. See a moose in the wild? Check.

IMG_3271

He really couldn’t have cared less about us. He was enjoying a snack! Nonetheless, he was standing between us and our car – which was actually in a parking lot further down the road – and we needed to pass him somehow. We didn’t want to startle him or make him think that we were encroaching on his delicious snack, so we made some noise. He looked up, squared up, and didn’t budge. That was his salty ice. If it were just Miles and I with our friends, we probably would’ve risked just carefully walking past the moose. But, we had our babies. You don’t risk being charged by a moose when you’re carrying your baby. That’s just not good parenting. But you do take photos of your baby with the moose in the background that you’ll stick in the baby book titled “Baby’s First Moose Sighting!” Cause they clearly know what was going on. 😉

IMG_3280In the end, I’m happy to report that the moose really didn’t see us as a threat. My brave husband volunteered to be our “bullfighter.” Waving his blue coat (not RED – phew! ;)) to try to shoo him off the road a bit, Miles headed for the car. The moose really didn’t seem to mind us. More than anything, I think he was just annoyed that we had interrupted his late afternoon meal. But with babies in tow, we weren’t taking any chances.

As we loaded up in our big, intrusive SUV and headed back to civilization, I’m sure Mr. Moose reclaimed his spot in the deserted parking lot with his mountains all around him, contently munching on the salty treat left by some goofy, beautiful humans.IMG_3286

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