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The Moose Whisperer
This meadow appears as Blacktail Ponds on the maps of Grand Teton National Park. It is just off the main road that runs north out of Jackson, Wyoming, a little bit north of the southern entrance to the park.
As you can see, the meadow is full of willow in various Springtime shades of green and red and yellow. A small stream runs through the middle of it that branches off a river that flows behind the evergreens in the background. It is a perfect place for moose who love to strip the willow of their leaves.
My wife and I are here together on a cool May morning standing on a ridge that stands above the meadow. We are alone. We are here early in the season and, for some reason, no one else is here. We have the place to ourselves and are hoping to spot a moose.
Our training at wildlife spotting is minimal, mostly consisting of stopping at bear jams along the road to join dozens of others who are already watching a bear or a coyote or an osprey. So we are city folk hoping to get lucky. I am scanning the field with my eyes hoping to see something move. My more clever wife, is scanning looking for bush movement from something walking through.
If there are moose to see, we do not see them. Instead, a few geese fly by and land by the pond. Then more fly by and circle in front of a stand of trees off to the left at the edge of the meadow. Out of habit, I frame them as best as I can and snap a picture. It's an invigorating morning and the image reflects what a beautiful place we are standing in.
Still, it is not a moose. As we scan the meadow we see no signs of moose other than the stripped branches of some willow bushes. No movement in the willow. Nothing big crossing the stream.
And then we both hear it. A snort. Brief and quiet but unmistakable. And then it is quiet again as we continue to look with renewed anticipation. My wife thinks she hears chewing off to the left and focuses her eyes on that part of the meadow. Then another snort, definitely coming from the left.
After a bit, and more whispered claims from my wife that she hears chewing, I decide to walk along the ridge to our left to see if a different angle on the meadow will give me a chance to spy a moose. It is slow going, walking carefully through the low shrubs along the path but after a few minutes it pays off.
As I walk around a corner of the ridge, below me an adult moose emerges silently from the willow. I cannot hear a sound or, for that matter, see a branch of willow move as he slides out of the bush into the open. He is not 15 yards away.
Thankfully, he does not notice me and goes about his business. It's breakfast time and he is intent on striping the best willow plants of their leaves. My wife joins me and we watch as our moose feeds and walks through the willow. After a time, another couple arrives at the Blacktail Ponds but they head in another direction leaving us alone with our moose.
It is a great morning to be in Grand Teton. For about a half an hour we stay with the moose catching his attention just one - an extended stare through the willow - and leave him only after he finishes eating and sits down to rest.
My lovely wife, girl of the city, wins family renown for her auditory skill in locating a moose in a meadow (needle in a haystack?). For her unique listening skill, we dub her the family moose whisperer.
All photos and text copyright Clinton Richardson. These and other images from Yellowstone and Grand Teton are posted on our sister site at www.TrekPic.com in our Wild Wyoming Gallery.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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Travel, business and history with original photos.
Clinton Richardson - author, photographer, business advisor and traveler.
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