Animal #31 — Moose

alces alces

July 16, 1991 — 1:40 pm

Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota — Route 7

We spent a week in a cabin on Gull Lake near Brainerd. It was owned by John Kurtzman, the owner of Bang Printing where my company got much of its printing done. Sally’s dad used to work for a printer in Brainerd and had been good friends with Roger Wagner, the Bang salesman, so they came up and spent the week with us.

I took off very early this morning to drive up to Agassiz. I wanted to see some new birds, but I also wanted to see a moose. Everyone told me my only chance was to get up there very early in the morning, but since it was a four-hour drive, this proved impossible. I didn’t arrive until mid-morning. And I picked a lousy day. It was already 90º, and my Honda didn’t have air conditioning.

I stopped at the visitor center and got a key to a gate that allowed me into the back country of the refuge. I saw two lifers, a Black-billed Magpie and a Franklin’s Gull, but most of the birds were off in the shade somewhere. The heat wore me out, and I soon gave up. I was heading back toward the visitor center when I came upon a Red Fox. It was laying on the road in the shade of the marsh reeds. It didn’t move until my car got within 20 yards then loped lazily off ahead of me and disappeared around a bend. I pulled forward and saw it laying in the shade again. This time it ducked into the reeds out of sight.

I dropped the key off at headquarters. About that time, a large gray cloud rolled in. The temperature dropped and the wind kicked up. I drove the regular tour road, climbed the observation tower, then headed out of the refuge.

Up ahead, in the brush alongside the road, I saw what looked like a huge brown rabbit.

I stopped the car and looked through my binoculars. To my amazement, I had discovered a cow Moose.

I pulled forward until I was even with it and began snapping pictures. It was browsing in the bushes along a small puddle about 30 yards south of the road. It looked up, walked a short way back into the brush, grazed a bit, looked up, walked in a little further and so on until it was about 100 yards away. At which point, I left.

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