Newborn MooseHaines, AK
Alaskan Newborn Moose Meets World
This moose, under an hour old, was delivered on a silt bar in the middle of the Chilkat River. Byrne, my fellow tour guide, and I had just come to wait for our rafting guests to land. As we made our way to the pullout, momma moose was racing across to the far side of the river and disappeared. That’s when we saw the babe.
Left alone and trembling, this Alaskan newborn moose was hunched on the silt bar with bent back legs, unsure of how they worked. Water rushed around him on all sides. He chirped for his mother over the water’s din but she didn’t come. Only a hungry bald eagle answered the call.
As the babe first stretched a back leg and then a front leg, I watched in awe of his first steps. Nobody taught him what to do. He just did it. Instinct.
He came to the water’s edge and paused, sniffing toward the shore opposite of where his mother ran. His next steps felt like a mistake. He walked with determination into the water as we thought to ourselves, “Wong way! Go back!”
In an instant, the baby was swept a quarter of a mile downstream by a deep, swift and frigid glacial current. We ran, helplessly, to watch through the trees. My heart sank along with this poor baby, his nostrils flaring just above the surface. I stopped the camera and looked away.
Will nature reclaim what she just created?
Miraculously, the Alaskan newborn moose caught traction at another silt bar. Without getting tangled in the trees, he fought the current with every step toward shore and climbed the banks just beyond our view.
We ran along the roadside, slowing where we thought he was, and found him spent and wet in the low, narrow shoulder between the highway and the river. He stood stock still, anticipating our next move. We feared startling him into traffic or back into the water. Noting his location and lack of injuries, we backed off and let him rest.
Food for Thought
The “mooseling” laid in a bed of fresh greens edged in dandelions. As he recovered from his ill adventure, an eagle hovered nearby — watching, waiting, and hoping for a bit of moose salad. And this wasn’t the only menacing threat.
The large black bear seen nearby worried us. Wolves and coyote are also in the area. Would any one of them find the babe before his mama did? The single hovering raptor couldn’t take him down alone, but a team could surely do so. As we left, 2 eagles joined the first looming in the branches overhead.
An Uncertain Future
On our second rafting run of the day, while our guests floated down the river, Byrne and I checked on the little fella. He was napping in the soft, filtered light, no longer harassed by eagles. Sensing us, he rose to his feet, blinking with big, bright eyes. His coat had dried to a rich red color. His legs were sturdier. Again, noting his progress, we backed off.
It had been hours without food or protection for the babe. If mom delivered a twin elsewhere, she might not come back. Those who saw her before we arrived said she looked fairly inexperienced.
My guiding partner and I called a local rehabilitator. He was on board to monitor the situation. We crossed fingers that mom would find her baby and all would be right with the world. But backup was ready, if the law allowed.
Caught on Film…
An Ending Filled with Hope
The following day, where the young moose had been, only an indentation in the grass remained. No signs of detritus from distress or struggle. No signs of bear, wolf, coyote or eagle. One can only surmise, and I choose to believe, that he was reunited with his mama.
Cheers, Little Miracle
Given that this brave little warrior learned to walk, swim, take shelter and survive within his very first hour of independence, my greatest hope is that he will live a long, happy and slightly less adventurous life from here on out.