Mother Moose Nursery Times

Spring is a moosey time of year here. Pregnant cows come into the people community to give birth: There are few to no bears and wolves in people communities, and people tend to be less hazardous to calves.

I’ve been seeing two young bull moose frequently. I named them Bump and Spike (volleyball moose!) based on their antlers. Given their size (small, as moose go) and antler growth, I figure they’re teenagers, probably last year’s calves.

Young bull moose with anlter spikes.

Bump. His antlers have grown since I first saw him this spring. This is almost what Spike looked like the first time I saw him. As long as they show up regularly, I’ll be able to tell them apart, but if I don’t seem them for a time, I won’t be able to distinguish.

In fact, because they are both in the general vicinity, though not side-by-side together, I suspect they’re the twin bulls that we watched last fall, playing with each other and the boat trailer parked in our driveway. I figure they returned to the area with their pregnant mother, but were chased off by her and are newly on their own.

Twin moose calves playing with a boat trailer.

This was taken last fall. They don’t exactly look like bulls, but they acted like bulls, playing as though they had antlers and mounting each other.

I’ve seen them both a number of times, easily distinguishable by their antlers. Bump’s been around most, browsing on the hill while I work in the gardens and Hugo (visiting dog) lazes in one of his dirt beds. Bump also strolled by close enough—about twenty feet away—that I was compelled to sit with Hugo to make sure he didn’t chase.

We saw the young moose so often that Hugo routinely stopped in the doorway to scan the hill before going out, then stopped at the corner of the house to sniff and scan again in the other direction. He’s a lazy old guy; I don’t think he wants a confrontation.

One evening last week, I casually asked, “Is there a moose in the yard?” before making a lap around the darn-good room to examine the yard. I make such laps many times a day. At the last window, I answered my own question, “Why, yes, there is!”

Mike, incredulous, said, “No way.”

Oh, yes way.

But it wasn’t Bump or Spike, it was a cow, also smallish. She meandered up the hill on the west side and circled around the back of the house. As I retrieved the binoculars to get a better look at a mark on her hind quarter, Mike announced that something seemed to startle her, and she was running off.

Ah, yes, here comes another, larger cow. Followed by a tiny, brown calf—this year’s calf.

Around the house and down below the garden, the big cow aggressively chased the little cow, until finally the little cow headed west, and the big cow headed east with the brown baby on her heels.

Cow moose nuzzles young calf

Awww. A cow moose nuzzles her new calf. Isn’t nature lovely?

Without the benefit of a genetic test, I’m going to guess that the little cow is a teenager, the offspring of the cow that was chasing her. If that’s true, this young cow has spent the past year with her mother, and now, suddenly, her mother is not only leaving her alone (abandoning her), but is aggressively chasing her off (being mean).

I know this is how it’s done. It’s time for the teenage cow to grow up and be independent. Nature demands it; the cow has to raise her new calf. But it breaks my heart a little anyway. The poor teenage moose doesn’t seem quite ready yet.

So even while I marvel at the recovering plants on my deck and in the garden, celebrating the wonder and beauty of nature, I grumble at the heartless cruelty of nature, too. Sometimes nature is ugly.

Categories: Alaska

1 reply »

  1. When Tammy came in today, I told her I wanted to show her some of Jen’s friends and neighbors! She wasn’t even surprised when she saw the moose; she just said, “I should have known!” And she always remarks about what a good writer and story teller you are.