Monday, October 22, 2007

Feeding The Moose

Life at the moose pens was always interesting and feeding the moose was sometimes an adventure. In some pens all we had to do was open the back of the feeder and dump food in from outside the fence. Then the moose come running up and you get to watch the dominant moose eat first while the others try to squeeze in for their turn. Sometimes they get very aggressive charging each other or even rearing up and kicking each other with their hooves. It's always fun to watch them from outside the pens. But it can be quite the heart racing moment from inside. In this photo I pulled up on the snow mobile and dumped the first 50lb pound bag of feed and then went back to the sled to get the next one only to see George the bull chasing the others around to get to the food first. Some of the more wild moose(those that haven't been bottle fed) keep their distance. But then there's the more habituated moose like George. He's not afraid of humans or his fellow moose so he tends to push most of them around sometimes literally! My goal was to ride in on the snow mobile as quick as possible and then dump the food and get out of there but some of the moose have an almost Pavlovian response to the sound of snow machines or ATVs so it makes things very interesting.

One on one snowy day in March I was coming back from Monte's loop(the feeder in the photo above) and rounded a corner at about 25 MPH only to see this moose caused road block. After my heart rate slowed down a bit I took this photo. Then I fired up the snow mobile and headed back to the cabin. I got a strange feeling after about a hundred yards and turned around to see George hot on my tail about 75 feet behind the snow mobile. I was going about 20MPH. So I sped up to about 35MPH and he stayed on my tail for at least another 1/4 mile. I was glad to see him break off because I was running out of road and wondered if he could put the breaks on in time if I slowed down.LOL! Sometimes life is stranger than fiction:)

Here's another one of George and a smaller bull in the background.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meeting the Moose

My first day at the moose pens was very exciting. I got to practice with the radio telemetry and tracked a moose named Mattie who was one of the friendly moose at the pens and quite the mooch. So there I was walking on snow shoes that were a bit awkward in about 4 feet of snow and when I finally find Mattie instead of hiding or running away like a wild moose would she comes walking right up to me and lets me scratch her ears. Then nearly knocks me over when I decide to stop. So I'm taking photos of Mattie and suddenly she starts to put her ears back and and moan and move away. I'm wondering what I could have done to bother her and trying awkwardly to move away without falling only to hear movement behind me and see Melody come charging out of the trees in order to chase Mattie away! Well imagine trying to run on snow shoes that are about 32" long while avoiding a moose quarrel. I nearly needed new underwear and would soon learn this is everyday life at the moose pens. They rarely are out to get you but it's not always easy to get out of their way when they want at each other. Quite the amazing and exciting first day. These photos are both Mattie.

The Kenai Moose Research Center

Well I have off for Alaska Day and decided to add a bit about one of my favorite places. The Kenai Moose Research Center on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. I applied for a volunteer internship there and live onsite in a remote cabin about 40 miles down dirt roads from the nearest town. The facility has approximately 20 captive moose at any given time. Many of these were bottled fed in order to have them become highly habituated to humans. This allows scientists to approach close up and study moose without them becoming fearful and running away. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff at the MRC(Moose Research Center). I learned more about wildlife science from these folks than from any college course I have taken and just being able to spend time in a wilderness setting with these great people aiding in the study of one of my favorit mammals was the experience of a lifetime. I took many photos there and thought I'd share some with you. This first one is me and a moose named Peanut. She's a big cow moose that is the dominant one in her pen. When we weighed her in the spring she was about 430KG. As you can see her shoulder is almost at my head level and I'm 5' 10". If she hadn't been habituated I'd never get this

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mendenhal Glacier before and after

These are photos of Mendenhal glacier. The first photo shows huge chunks of ice that broke of this spring. The third photo was taken 4 years ago in July of 2004. The last photo was taken June 2nd 2007. When you see it in person it's a bit scary how much has melted away. If I had realized I would want comparison shots I would have taken the recent one from further away.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Summer in Southeast Alaska

Sunsets in southeast A.K. can be amazing. This one is from windfall island looking toward swan cove which is on Admiralty island. It was taken at 10:35P.M. in July.

These next two were taken during my "commute" to work in July. They're out the window of the floatplane(obviously). It's the only way to fly(weather permitting). lol

We talked a bored pilot into taking a different way home from windfall island. This is over the north end of Admiralty island. It's a lot of fun being able to get so close to the mountains although the margin for error is greatly reduced at this altitude:)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Everything is big in Alaska

Sitka spruce trees can be over 700 years old in S.E. alaska. I thought you might enjoy a photo of me standing next to one that is ancient. It has10 "leaders"and is truly amazing. If you ever get to swan point off admiralty island in S.E. AK take a look for it but beware the "hot feet"(bear trails). That's what scientists call it when the trail is used over and over again with bears walking in the same foot prints over many years. This area is heavily used by brown bears. I'd never go there without making lots of noise, a can of pepper spray and preferably a rifle. lol Places like this make me realize just how small we really are and how amazing alaska really is!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

More fun at Chugach State Park

Hi gang,

I've returned from the anchorage area and noticed there was request for more upclose and personal moose photos. Here's a few from my recent trip. Fall in the Chugach is amazing! the first photo is a bull moose that was right next to the trail last fall during the wildlife society conference trip that some of us went on with Bob from ADFG leading the trip. The bull moose in the second photo was about 100 yards below me away from the trail earlier this week. It took forever to for him to lift his head and face the right direction. The top moose has a radio collar.

The photo on the left is an example of some future darwin award winners. If you look close you can see at least seven people some of which are way too close to some bull moose. The closest people were supposedly from N. Geographic! They were hitting the brush with sticks to call in the rutting bulls. Then I would watch them drop the tripods and run when the moose decided they'd had enough. LOL! I guess that's how they get the good shots. This all took place in a state park off the powerline pass trail.

This is popular hiking trail loaded with wild moose. The two moose in the photo are a cow and a calf. Luckily for her and her dog this cow moose didn't feel threatened. Even when she dragged the dog past them. lol

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Moose encounters

Hi Gang I just added a new link. It's called Fun Hog Fun Dogs and it's got some truly awesome photos of Alaska and the Anchorage "foothills", etc. I was out hiking the other day and saw lots of moose on the Powerline Pass trail. The blog has photos of where I've been hiking this week. I'll add more moose photos when I get back to town. I did see some amazing things I couldn't get photos of such as some guys off in the distance that were beating the brush in order to get bull moose to come very close for photos! There were about 8 people crowding around four wild bulls that were at times only about 30 feet away. A key point here is that the only reason they could call them in is that it's during the rut. I watched two huge bulls push each other around for about 2 minutes. These guys were being very foolish. It's one thing to call them in while hunting but it's another to get that close to a bull moose that's looking for a cow and may think of people as a nuisance. The day before I got a photo of a woman walking her dog(which a moose thinks of as a predator...wolves eat moose) and she got tired of waiting for a huge cow with a calf and decided to walk by with her dog frothing at the mouth! People are amazing. These moose are obviously very habituated but just picture an animal the size of a horse(actually bigger) with a show plow on it's head getting really annoyed and you realize what could I'll try to ad more photos within the next few days. Alaska is amazing but there's way more people who are earning the darwin awards than I thought there would