Indelible Brushes with Wildlife

Unexpected encounters with wildlife are my favorite kind. Just yesterday, a moose and I startled each other on the trail. It wasn’t the wildlife viewing opportunity of a lifetime, but it was exhilarating to hear a noise, glance up, and behold that mass of shiny, brown, rippling muscle hotfooting it downhill toward me. Had I stood still, it would’ve come close, but I reacted instinctually, leaping for the scant protection of a nearby birch. My motion scared the animal and it bolted. 

Another time, a campground coyote slipped by almost unnoticed. I happened to see it amble across the road and alerted my boyfriend. We grabbed cameras and moseyed to where the canid had disappeared into the bushes and were surprised to see furry ears flashing in the setting sun. Wiley sat on its haunches and watched us watch, then laid down and curled its tail over its nose for a nap.

Once, as a kid at my parents’ hunting camp in the Alaska Range, I was terrorized—or so it felt—by a porcupine waddling around the edge of the cabin looking for plywood to gnaw on. Everyone else was down at the airstrip. Porky came at me, albeit lumbering, and it freaked me out enough that I grabbed a broom to shake in its direction. My brother had a good laugh about that.

Even spying wild creatures from afar is exciting—especially when they are bears. One September morning on the dog walk, we saw five berry-munching bruins: a grizzly sow with two large cubs grazing away on blueberries midway up the mountainside, and across the river, two adult black bears doing the same even higher. Both sets were distant enough that our cell phone telephotos produced only blobs, but just knowing we shared the valley with five bears at once thrilled us.

Whatever beast I surprise next—or whatever surprises me—will, I’m sure, be memorable.


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