Monday, June 23, 2008

Moose Motherhood

Cow moose and newborn calf try to navigate Phelan creek in the Alaska range. The calf was nearly swept away by the current.

Phelan creek is located in Isable Pass in the Alaska Range mountains. At an altitude of more than 3000 feet, the snow pack melts slowly there, and in mid June, dense patches still remain. A cow moose and spring calf (perhaps 1 - 2 weeks old) were navigating the braided stream. Current from the stream and ledges from snow pack make this difficult for a tiny moose calf. At one point, the calf was nearly swept away by the current, so it huddled up in an eddy near the side of the stream.

Moose calf takes shelter in an eddy along the side of the stream while the mother examines a possible way out.

The cow moose repeatedly crossed the stream to the other side attempting to find a safe route for her calf, but returned quickly seeming unsatisfied. The cow then stepped up from the stream bed onto the snow pack and considered this as an optional route to the swift stream current. She did this a few times, returning each time to her calf. I wondered how that little calf would get up on the snow pack since I could barely see its head when standing next to it. At some point, the mother gave the command and the little moose calf rested its front feet on the edge, the cow stepped down into the water and slowly and carefully nudged the calf up onto the snow pack. Off they trotted!

With a little nudge the cow helps lift the young calf onto the snow pack.

Quite amazing to watch this snippet of natural life. With any time spent watching moose with calves in the spring one thing is evident--they are always on the run, since bears and wolves are eager to prey upon the little ones. Sometimes, moose calf mortality can exceed 70% by predators. Cow moose usually have twins, and whether she lost one already, or gave birth to one only I'm not sure.

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