In A Pickle  

Meeting mama moose

The cow moose raced across the open meadow toward us.  

Her hackles were raised and her ears flat as she trumpeted and roared, the primal bellow echoing across the Alberta foothills.

A steaming locomotive on steroids was headed our way and about to mow us over. Those gangly legs wobbled like a contortionist and it would have been funny had she not been terrifying.

A moose can out run a horse, especially when the horse is carrying a rider. 

Death by moose seemed imminent, so we dismounted and said our prayers or rather I did. Although it had been many years, I suddenly recalled my Catholic upbringing and made the sign of the cross. 

My knees knocked in sync with the horse’s. 

Nonchalantly, my then husband pulled out a camera and snapped blurry photos.

"This is not a Kodak moment," I shrieked.

At the last second, our dogs went after the cow. They leapt, snapping and snarling, baring those large, white canine teeth. The moose did an about face and ran toward the forest.

As it turned out, she was protecting her new-born calf. The cow led the dogs away from her baby, which was hidden behind a log.

Once our Akitas were satisfied momma moose had changed her mind about killing us, they came strutting back with tongues hanging out, wagging their tails. 

Unscathed, mother and infant moose would reunite after we left. 

It felt even more surreal as we leapt onto our horses and galloped down a steep, rocky embankment as a minor rock slide flew out from beneath their hooves.   

Moose are formidable, especially when it comes to protecting their young. Forget mother bear instincts, mother moose has her trumped. 

They kill more people than any other wild animal, except the hippopotamus. 

When a moose rears on her hind legs, she strikes with her front ones and those sharp-pointed hooves slice open the target of her fury. She throws her weight into the blows, all 360 kilograms — 800 pounds — trampling her opponent.  

Those pounding hooves deliver 1,000 pounds of force and the resulting injury won’t be minor. Incredibly though, most moose attacks aren’t lethal.

My former husband and I were in the middle of nowhere in the rugged foothills where even an insignificant injury could have been life threatening. Help was a long way off, providing we could have made it back to the truck. 

To make matters worse, after fleeing from the moose, we came to a dead end, with downed trees blocking the only exit.

Gripped by the icy fingers of despair, I thought the situation hopeless. To turn back would have been to face her wrath once more and it would not have ended well. 

Fishing through our saddle bags, we retrieved hunting and pocket knives and used rocks to hammer on the handle, driving the blade through the trees.

The recently blown down trees were about four or five inches in girth, hard to penetrate. It took several hours of intense labour in the blazing sun — while looking over our shoulders. 

Slowly, but surely, we chiselled our way, crudely bush whacking a path just wide enough to lead the horses through a dry creek bed to freedom. 

I could have kissed the ground once we finally made it back to camp — long after dark.

Before our next trip west, we bought hand saws designed for bush clearing. The tools were compact and folded up for safe storage in the saddlebags. No more Flintstone MacGyvering for us.

Those backpacking saws got us out of many a pickle for many years as we explored the remote, dangerous and heavily forested wilderness of the Alberta foothills, trail blazing all the way.


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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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