Counting the Moose
November 4th, 2020
Our recent road trip around the western U.S. took us north to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Often, the highlight of a trip to Wyoming is seeing the abundant wildlife all around the state. Even while just driving through on Highway 80 or I-25, Wyoming’s open landscapes feature pronghorn, elk, deer and maybe bison too, if you know which routes to take.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks always deliver on wildlife sightings so, while staying in Jackson during our road trip, we booked a half-day private outing with a photographer/guide named Dwight. Grand Teton is vast, with terrain that extends from the plains to the mountains, so a tour requires a vehicle. We masked up, climbed in the back seat, rolled down the windows, aimed the binoculars and drove through the park in search of its wildest residents.
Moose are not uncommon to see, wandering through the marshy landscape munching on twigs, leaves, trees and shrubs. We spotted our first moose by 7:30 a.m., hopped out of the vehicle and observed it for a bit before moving on to terrain near the Snake River.
And that’s when Dwight spotted the party on the knoll in front of us. I had just asked him if moose were solitary creatures and he said yes. But here we were looking at FIVE moose hanging out together in the shrubby open space. Dwight was gobsmacked. He had never seen anything like it. And of course, neither had we! The group included three bulls (males, with antlers) and two cows (females), grazing on the land while slowly moving east.
In the morning light, their profiles were dark and crisp against the sky, their characteristic dewlaps (extra flaps of skin) hanging under their necks. We worked our way farther east of the moose so we could aim our cameras west, with the Tetons in the background.
Moose are enormous, powerful creatures and prone to charging when they feel threatened so we took a lot of care in moving slowly and relying only on our zoom lenses to get close to them. Bulls can weigh up to 1,000 pounds/450 kilos and can also run up to 35 miles/56 kms per hour so it’s imperative to be aware of your distance at all times. A moose kick can be fatal.
We feel so lucky to have seen this majestic morning moose gathering — one, two, three, four, five! We ended the photography tour with gratitude for the unique sighting and the satisfaction of knowing that all moose were counted.
More sightings tomorrow!
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.