Moose are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. It never ceases to amaze me at how enormous they are. From a distance they look “big”, but as I approach and get close to them, their size just blows me away. A big bull like this can stand 7′ tall at the shoulder, and weigh up towards 1800 pounds in their prime. I found this particular bull moose in Denali National Park, and I was able to spend quite a bit of time in the area, photographing him. The light and weather was almost always uncooperative for me, so I didn’t get an awful lot of great photos, but I had a simply amazing experience. I’d follow him around the tundra, lie down and nap when he slept, walk when he walked, and, albeit briefly, live the life of a moose for a few days. It was pretty cool. I saw him approach a cow moose, chase of a few other buls, but I also saw him pal around with another bull one afternoon, as they were friends. Maybe they were. I do know that this was right round the time of the rut, and the bulls would normally be very intolerant of one another, yet this guy and his pal, after sizing each other up, simply acted as though they were good ole friends. A day later I found this guy again, but his pal had wandered off somewhere, and I didn’t see him again.
Moose are typically solitary animals, though during the rut the bulls will come together to fight for the right to breed with the cows in the area. Sometimes a dominant bull will defend and breed a harem of 10 or more cows. There are always other smaller and younger bulls hanging around, who will steal one of the cows and breed with her if they get a chance. We call these bulls “satellite bulls”, as they often hang on the fringe of the dominant bulls territory, patrolling the border for an opportunity, perhaps when the dominant bull is fighting off another challenger, to breed with one of the cows.
All this fighting and chasing and breeding takes a huge toll on the dominant bull, and they’re reign is usually short-lived – a few years at most. They spend so much time “working” in the rut that they do not eat at all, once it begins in earnest. Hence, the bull moose must eat as much as possible during the spring and summer months, putting on weight and storing up reserves of energy for the fall rut. Once the rut starts, they lose weight rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that they risk losing too much energy in the rut, and sometimes are not able to make it through the long hard winter ahead.
I’m looking forward to seeing these guys again this year, and hopefully spending some more time walking the tundra with the moose.
For moose photos, see my Moose Photos web pages.