Of all the things that make living in Alaska unique, the funniest are the moose. For the uneducated, moose are the largest of the deer family (and behind only the bison the second largest land animal in North America) that stand typically seven feet at the shoulder, over ten feet long, and males have large, palm/finger-like antlers that can spread over six feet. They look like tall horses with long, thin legs, a tiny tail, and antlers. Okay, they look like dumb horses, with rounder snouts. Okay they look like dumb moose. For the record – the plural for moose is moose (as in “look at all them dumb moose, they sure is dumb them moose”). While moose only wander a short distance south of Canada, they are quite numerous in Alaska. In 2011, it was said their population was over 200,000; that’s nearly one moose for every three people. The numbers are high enough for annual moose hunts in the autumn to coincide with their mating season and when the antlers are at their largest. Funny thing about those numbers, they are one of the few creatures like them that don’t travel in herds. Basically mommies hang with their babies, but otherwise if you see a moose you will only see the one.
Now it needs to be mentioned that moose are quite dumb. Okay, I already mentioned it, but I guess I can’t make that point enough. They are really known for only doing three things: eating, sleeping, and making more moose. Outside of mating season, they wander around from one place to eat to another, and occasionally stop to have a nice nap. During the fall, they wander from one girl moose to another, and occasionally stop to have a nice nap. Mostly, Moose don’t care where they do any of this. If the moose sees a nice treat to eat 100 feet away, he’s going to head there – even if that means walking through someone’s yard, crossing a street, or holding up traffic.
This of course is the main danger with Moose. Hitting a moose isn’t like hitting a deer with your car. For one thing, their legs are so tall, you have a chance of just lifting them up so they roll over top of you and come out without a scratch. You, on the other hand, are in trouble – because your car just hit a 1000 lbs of dumb roadblock. Every year there are hundreds of “moose vs. car” accidents, and most of them ends with the score being Moose 1, Car 0.
Moose can be aggressive, usually during mating season for the males, and during calving season for the females. It’s easy to tell when they are upset and usually heading in the other direction works to calm them. There is a story of an “Alaskan Moment” when a guy was spotted riding his bike in a sprint downhill while a full sized bull moose chased after him; but again, more funny than scary.
What always shocks me is when I am just driving and spot a moose. A month ago, one was sitting in someone’s front yard near a major street — just sitting there. I had moose tracks in the snow in my yard as well. Last night, I had to stop to let one cross the street in a part of the road that was fenced in. My funniest moment was when I was slowed on the way to work when a moose decided to walk up the road from my house. Besides only going 5 miles per hour, he stayed on the right side of the road, stopped at the stop lights, and otherwise followed all the rules.
What’s nice about it is that the moose are so goofy that I never get sick of seeing them. So go on Marty, take yourself out for a wander, and just don’t get yourself hit by a car.