The photo you see above is a cow moose charging a group of tourists
in Glacier National Park. This was not the start of the incident.
This very upset cow moose had been provoked by a couple park visitors
who were largely oblivious to respectful buffer zones between
themselves and animals.
In early September of 2010, I was visiting the scenic shores of
a well known lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. This lake is
famous for its moose sightings, and that was my main reason for
visiting. Upon reaching the lake, I noticed perhaps ten people filming
a large bull moose which was in the water thirty yards from shore
in the corner of the lake where thick, eight foot high bushes stretched
south along the shore, and a sandy shoreline mixed with forest stretched
to the west. The bull seemed quite relaxed, not even bothering to
look at the people tucked into the trees and filming from a safe
distance. It acted in a natural manner and enjoyed the aquatic vegetation
it was feasting on.
Things began to change when a family of seven approached
too close to the bull moose and turned their backs to it while
another family member took their photo. The moose began to act
nervously, frequently raising its head and staring at the clueless
family who had their backs to it. It was at this point that a
young man wearing camo pants and a female partner decided to move
even closer to the already very close bull moose, and headed into
the bushes with the only possible intention being to see the face
of the bull moose more frequently. I didn't understand why thirty
yards was not close enough with today's zoom cameras. The man
was brandishing two high caliber firearms on his belt, and was
holding a video camera. I watched them sneak into the alder and
move in closer to the moose. As they did this,. they obscured
themselves from the bull's view and caused the bushes to rattle
and scrape in a way that most likely felt ominous to the moose.
At this point, the moose began to spook, and stared intently into
the moving bushes, unable to see the source of movement. The now
clearly agitated bull moose looked at the family who had their
back to it, then to the bushes, and then finally charged the family,
pushing them off the shore and up into the woods. The family,
clueless as ever finally turned around as blood curdling shrieks
of "run!" came from those in the forest. The smiles
of the day dreaming family faded to horrific frowns when they
saw the bull moose charging behind them with its massive rack.
People screamed and shouted as they were herded up into the main
trail section and the moose gained on them. Luckily, no one was
hurt in the incident, but it was not over. The bull moose paced
in the woods, huffing and snorting. From across the lake, a cow
moose sprinted, sending up white foam and spray with its ears
pinned back. When it reached the shore it walked back and forth
in what I could only describe as anger - or perhaps it sensed
danger to a possible hidden calf.
The bull moose getting ready to charge the family.
Several of the people were outraged over the actions of the
young couple with guns and video camera who approached the bull
moose in the bushes, so we marched back to the Swift Current parking
lot and told a ranger about what happened. Two other people came
with me to act as witnesses to the event. We told the uniformed
and radio equipped park employee about the incident and showed
her a picture of the charging cow moose, and her reaction was
definite surprise. She contacted another ranger and told her about
the story. I caught up with this ranger at the foot bridge on
the way to the lake where the incident occurred, and at this point
the two people who pushed the huge bull moose into the crowd also
were walking back. The ranger proceeded to talk to them about
how to approach wildlife, but no ticket was given. When I asked
her why no ticket was given for such a dangerous incident, she
informed me that she had to be there to witness any wrong doing
to issue a ticket. I digested her comment and moved along, thanking
her for the tough job she had to do, but admittedly slightly puzzled
at the lack of enforcement for one of the most dangerous situations
Ive ever seen in all my years at Glacier National Park,
or in any national park.
The cow moose bolts across the shallow lake. I've
never seen moose behavior like this.
I can tell you with great certainty that for the rest of my visit
in Glacier, I was extremely cautious of running into the moose
agitating couple in any wildlife situation. The moose charging
incident could have been much worse. Looking back at it now, it
seemed the bull was almost toying with the people, and if it wanted
to, it could have easily smashed that clueless family into pieces,
or anyone else who witnessed the event. We are all fortunate that
no one sustained any injuries.
If you approach wildlife and see it change from calm to agitated
and nervous, you're too close. Back away. There were many disappointed
people in this incident who only got to see this magnificent bull
for a few moments thanks to the two people who pushed into it.
The thing I always try to remember when visiting our great parks
and forests is that these parks and animals do not owe me a
photo. Instead, I owe these parks and animals respect and
common courtesy in their home. If you can't get the shot, so what?
Life goes on. You'll sleep better at night knowing you didn't
push that bull moose into a crowd of people, or that you didn't
chase away that eagle from its nest and young. I believe these
positive behaviors reward us in the future, and I certainly hope
that magnificent bull and cow are back at the scenic lake, enjoying
the vegetation as they always have.
The lake where the incident took place.