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Wild Moose Encounter – Jasper National Park

This post is part of a series about our #Canada2012 trip to British Columbia & Alberta, Canada.

I seriously didn’t expect to see wild moose on our trip. I thought they were shy creatures. But we were very lucky, and we got to see some on a couple of occasions.

The first occasion was by the side of the road, as we travelled East down highway 24 from 100 Mile House to Jasper. We left early as it’s a long drive, and we saw a mother and calf at around 8-9am, just grazing by the hedgerows. At the time, it felt like a huge bonus. A really exciting thing to see. But the best was yet to come.

At Maligne lake, Jasper NP, I just nipped into the woods to try to get some photos of the trees. The light was poor in the dense woodland, and the photos weren’t worth keeping. But as I wandered back to the lakeside, we were astonished to see three moose striding out of the very trees I’d come from, and into the shallows of the lake.

There was a mother & calf, and an enormous bull male. I quickly fumbled around in my camera bag, to swap the 18mm landscape lens for a telephoto and teleconveter.

Initially I thought this was a happy little family of mum, dad, and baby. But I soon realised how foolish that was. Like most other members of the deer family, moose don’t make great fathers. The calves live with their mother, and the males live mainly solitary lives. Eventually it dawned on me that the bull was chasing the female out to the lake, as we happened to be visiting during the rut. She paid him no attention as she already had a calf to look after. So he soon lost interest in her and ran off after the next closest female… right towards us, as it happened. I took some nice head-on photos as he walked our way. But as he slowly broke into a canter, we soon lost our nerve, and scattered into the trees. It was pretty scary at the time. They’re such an odd shape. Like a horse on stilts. And those long legs carried him forward very quickly with barely any effort. When his head went down, it was time to make a quick exit.

Western Bull Moose in the snow, Alberta, Canada.
Canadian Western Bull Moose

I deeply regret not getting better photos of the bull, given the opportunity I had. But I didn’t want to chase off after him and hound him for photos. Especially in his hormone-induced state, it wasn’t safe for me, and it wasn’t fair on him. So I let him wander off, and I crouched in the snow to photograph the cow and calf. As a photographer I’ll probably always regret that decision, but as a wildlife enthusiast I know I did the right thing.

These two seemed very comfortable with human presence. Far more so than I expected. Shooting at 420mm, I was able to keep my distance, but there were some other people there who got much closer than I would have. I wanted to give them plenty of space, and it was also an opportunity to get some wider photos, showing them in their environment. I wish I’d taken the teleconverter of at some point, and shot at 300mm so I could have gotten more of the snowscape around them. It was the perfect setting, and I was shooting with too long a lens really.

I still don’t know if they are the shy creatures I originally thought. They seemed pretty comfortable around us in the hour or so watching them. But either way, I feel exceptionally lucky to have seen them. They’re an iconic species, and truly a highlight of a memorable trip.




Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white


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