When I do schools visits and ask the kids what they think the scariest thing I can run into on the trail is, I usually get answers like ‘wolf’ or ‘bear’. Surprising to many, the answer for many mushers and myself is a moose. Whether moose see an oncoming dog team as a pack of wolves, whether they are just too stupid to just get out of the way, or whether their moose Mommies have told them they are bigger and tougher then anything else in the forest, I’m just not sure. But the fact is that often a moose would rather stand in the middle of a trail stomping and swinging their large, empty heads then move off a hard packed trail. Each winter some sled dogs are injured and in a few extreme cases killed during these encounters. This is not one of those stories.
As I was coming home with a 12-dog team yesterday, I had to pass through a quarter section of government land that is home to a herd of cows in the summer and used by us and a few other outdoor enthusiasts for the rest of the year. This is home to numerous deer, some moose, and ‘psycho’ coyote (who I will talk more about at a later date!). One of the gates was closed and as I walked up the team to go open it, I noticed Draco carrying something in his mouth. Draco is a ‘packer’. He loves to pick things up along the trail and carry them with him. I discourage this habit for fear he will swallow some of the smaller things he finds, but he sometimes finds things that I have missed on the trail. First off I tried to determine what this was I was about to attempt to wrestle out of his jaws (there is not much worse then playing tug-o-war with something dead or rotten!). I couldn’t figure it out and finally made a grab. Draco fought hard for his prize. When finally it popped out I was amused and surprised to find him packing a 4” high STUFFED MOOSE!!! Where he picked this up and what exactly it was doing in the middle of the woods in beyond me (maybe coyote pups play with stuffed moose toys – who knows), but I am very grateful that this moose encounter ended so well.
Well, except for the stuffed moose – covered in dog slobber and missing an eye – he was definitely the loser in this battle!
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