"Whew...that was a close one," the game warden and I uttered in unison. While we watched the mother moose and her injured calf cross slowly over the next ridge, the warden shook an uncertain head and whispered, "Well - did my best, sure hope the little feller makes it."
Having embarked upon the winter of my days, I'm still addicted to blue jeans, silly sounding wines, my play toys, and despite a few honestly gained wrinkles, I still consider myself a kid caring for my acres and critters. Last winter had been unusually dry and warm on my 7,000 foot Montana ranch, far different from the almanac predictions. There hadn't been enough snow to snowmobile out the front gate with the lone exception of a few weeks in February when the storms were wet and heavy.
It was during those stormy days I climbed aboard my snowmobile to test out some new equipment. A few yards down the road I was startled to see a young moose grunting and flailing violently on our barbed wire fence. Hanging precariously upside down by the pastern of one hind leg, he appeared to be bleeding profusely. I was tempted to free the animal with my new wire cutters, then remembered our state's strict laws about civilians interfering with wildlife. Besides, the youngster's irate mother had now appeared, and I knew better than to make that fatal step between a mother moose and her child. I left a message with our neighhboring game warden who promised to come immediately.
Injured and abandoned wildlife are often turned over to surrogates like myself to raise and release by the Fish and Game, but this mother moose wasn't about to have any of that nonsense. I wasted no time closing the front gates, for Mrs. Moose indicated she preferred I stay behind the fence and mind my own business. She pawed the snow, snorted great billows of steam, and returned to her child's side over and over. The youngster was becoming exhausted, too spent to fight the wire and would soon fall prey to hypothermia.
It took our game warden twenty minutes to arrive and carefully maneuver the driver's side of his rig between the young victim and his frantic mother. Mrs. Moose would have none of it. She circled the truck, bowed her neck and continued her dancing and snorting. Although she was pre-occupied, time was taking its toll on the helpless calf, and I worried that his breathing had become labored.
The moment mama moose returned to the opposite side of his truck, the warden slithered out the door and threw himself up onto the embankment. He snipped the two strands of wire in jig time, then flew back into his vehicle amidst incensed mother moose expletives. The youngster's leg seemed to be frozen in mid air, but after a few moments it slowly dropped into the snowy sagebrush.
We watched as the mother nudged her child out onto the road. After what seemed an eternity, the youngster struggled to his feet and stood on wobbly legs to gather his bearings. Mama reappeared from the woods, snorted one last time, and the calf gimped along behind her over the embankment.
The rescue was just another of the many times I had either participated in, or heard stories of gratifying animal rescues in our mountains. The stories are told all winter amongst neighbors before cozy fireplaces until snows vanish and our acres come alive with the sights and sounds of spring's rebirth.
While irrigating in the east pasture one spring morning, I was startled by an adolescent moose staring at me from beneath a large lodge pole pine. He sported great ghostlike gobs of white underwear emerging from his ruff and over his back and flanks. The pine itself resembled a flocked Christmas tree, the lower branches serving as shedding limbs for this handsome young bull's molt.
Regaining my composure I spoke softly, "Well, hi there Bullwinkle, where'd you come from?"
If he could have answered I'm sure he would have told me he was nearly two, his mom had a new baby, and he was now on his own. And as he turned and ambled off to graze, I noted a slight limp and pronounced scar on the pastern of his hind leg.
Kathe Campbell lives her dream on a Montana mountain with her mammoth donkeys, a Keeshond, and a few kitties. Three children, eleven grands and three greats round out her herd. She is a prolific writer on Alzheimer's, and her stories are found on many ezines. Kathe is a contributing author to the Chicken Soup For The Soul and Cup of Comfort series, numerous anthologies, RX for Writers, magazines and medical journals.
Moose On Velvet, Painting by Kathe Campbell Story Banner Photo by Kathe Campbell, taken at her Broken Tree Ranch, Wyoming
graphics by LinGrafs,Inc. specifically for The WordSmith Web Site