Alaskan Bull Moose captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR

The air started to bite with the drop in temps as the snow started to fall later yesterday afternoon. It’s a gorgeous, quiet time of year in Alaska with the changing of the guard from fall to winter. We’d spent the week in the Chugach Mountains, some days putting in seven miles going up and down the valley in search of our quarry that in previous years was chuck full. Something I’ve been doing for decades, this slam dunk subject has never been a challenge for me to find and photograph. With literally 50k plus images in my files from this one locale, its productivity keeps me coming back over and over again. This year, it’s all different and in the back of my mind, I’m very concerned.

There are some critters I know pretty well, Grizzly Bears, Sandhill Cranes, San Joaquin Kit Fox, and Moose. I’ve put decades of field time with these critters and those who have made it their life mission to understand them. This knowledge has numerous photographic benefits, one of them being in the right place at the right time. This year, it didn’t help out that much. After days of looking in locales where there should be herds of Moose only to find one, literally just one, and hearing from folks how they never gathered this year like in the past, I went to what Sharon calls Plan B. After a little time wandering, I finally found what we call in my family affectionately, my Northern Cousins.

The small band of a dozen Moose was held up in a small corner of Kincaid Park with this bull being the first and rightfully, the last one we spent time with. This is a dozen miles and at sea level from their mountain haunts. I’m saying bull but you’re seeing no giant rack so might be thinking it’s a cow. That’s because this big bull, and I mean big, has already shed its antlers which this time of year, is really abnormal! A sample of one, alone this doesn’t mean much. But we found other bulls missing one or both of their antlers. This along with their total absence in the valley high in the mountains where they should normally be doing that birds and the bees thing just feels really wrong as in, there is something wrong in their world. And when this is combined with the rest of the anecdotal evidence from the past two years going to old haunts to find critters missing or totally gone that for decades have been a treasure trove of photographs truly has me concerned for the natural world I so love. What have we done to our wild heritage? It keeps me awake at night, no bull!

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