Pharyngula

Here’s something you don’t see everyday: a bear kills a moose in someone’s driveway, and then rips its heart out and eats it. Even better, Skemono has links to the video. It makes me glad I don’t live in Alaska.

People should ask Skatje about the time she met a moose on a camping trip. She did not show up at our tent gnawing on a bloody heart, I guarantee you — but I haven’t seen her move that fast since.

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    May 9, 2007

    Dude….that was awesome.

  2. #2 none
    May 9, 2007

    In 2001 my son and I were driving the haul road in Alaska between Fairbanks and Manley Hot Springs in a rented Hyundai. Eighty miles north, having not seen a soul in 4 hours, a hiker stepped out of the taiga and threw his thumb out for a ride. We stopped and picked him up.

    He thanked me profusely for picking him up (truckers on the haul don’t stop for nothing). He was from Indiana and had been hiking in the bush alone for the previous 10 days. He’d seen bear signs but no bears while he was hiking the bush. He said “you leave them alone, they leave you alone”. Just the week before a man and his mother were both killed by a grizzly while jogging in a suburb of Anchorage.

    I told him this and he said “well, nature’s a bitch, eh?”

  3. #3 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    May 9, 2007

    But bears are still cute. :-)

    I haven’t seen her move that fast since

    I can relate to that, being threatened by moose a few times. First time I was out running on the tracks outside my parents village. Since I was visiting, I wasn’t used to the 10 km track I picked. My pace and head was definitely drooping when coming back towards the village, and so I didn’t at first notice the moose ahead.

    Unfortunately, being tired I stopped before I realized I was on the verge of scaring him off. Seeing my hesitation he came after me. Fortunately, there were a group of young spruces nearby to hide behind. Since the moose couldn’t get at me with his kicks and horns he eventually gave up harassing me – I could push between the spruces while he had to go around.

    Granted I had time to get my wind back, but with the adrenaline rush and all I still finished the remaining track in record time. :-) Afterwards I heard that I wasn’t the first attacked. It was spring and the bull had chosen his mating grounds over the track area. I guess he was the first to go when hunting season started…

    The second time involved a much smaller female with calf and waving a chain saw in her face. (I don’t think our elk is as large as the North American moose. That female was small, but brave!) Btw, did you know that one can hear their raised guard hair mowing on their backs when they are in threat position? Weird.

  4. #4 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    May 9, 2007

    But bears are still cute. :-)

    I haven’t seen her move that fast since

    I can relate to that, being threatened by moose a few times. First time I was out running on the tracks outside my parents village. Since I was visiting, I wasn’t used to the 10 km track I picked. My pace and head was definitely drooping when coming back towards the village, and so I didn’t at first notice the moose ahead.

    Unfortunately, being tired I stopped before I realized I was on the verge of scaring him off. Seeing my hesitation he came after me. Fortunately, there were a group of young spruces nearby to hide behind. Since the moose couldn’t get at me with his kicks and horns he eventually gave up harassing me – I could push between the spruces while he had to go around.

    Granted I had time to get my wind back, but with the adrenaline rush and all I still finished the remaining track in record time. :-) Afterwards I heard that I wasn’t the first attacked. It was spring and the bull had chosen his mating grounds over the track area. I guess he was the first to go when hunting season started…

    The second time involved a much smaller female with calf and waving a chain saw in her face. (I don’t think our elk is as large as the North American moose. That female was small, but brave!) Btw, did you know that one can hear their raised guard hair mowing on their backs when they are in threat position? Weird.

  5. #5 RavenT
    May 9, 2007

    But bears are still cute. :-)

    On that note, I see where Knut’s handlers are making plans for the inevitable, as the neoteny wears off, and he becomes just another big male polar bear.

    My vert endocrinology prof studies migratory birds, and tells of one summer in Alaska where–before setting up his equipment–he scouted carefully to make sure there were no bears visible anywhere from his site to the horizon. Satisfied that he was alone, he turned on his equipment, only to see a grizzly, sit up abruptly out of the ditch where he had been napping, very surprised at the noise! Fortunately, the bear had no interest at all in pursuing the matter.

    Adrenaline rush, indeed.

  6. #6 Siamang
    May 10, 2007

    “People should ask Skatje about the time she met a moose on a camping trip.”

    …A M°°se once bit my sister

    No realli!

  7. #7 Thanny
    May 10, 2007

    There was a story last year (or the year before) around here in NJ where a large black bear just coming out of winter slumber killed a pony inside a pen, then dragged it over two fences to the woods.

    The only thing I’ve witnessed bears killing are my bird feeders. One incident involved a female with three cubs. You can see a couple lousy pictures from that here:

    Bear 1
    Bear 2

    I’ve also had a young one with two ear tags on the deck, trying to reach a feeder attached via a hanger from there (we gave up on that pole you see in the ground – it has so many bends from bears pulling it down and me straightening it that it looks wavy now).

    Most recently, though not witnessed by me, a large one reached up from the ground and snatched a tube feeder attached to the deck post by a hanger. He then carried it closer to the tree line and dismantled it to get at the seed inside.

    So long as they keep running away when we go outside, I’m fine with them sharing my living area.

  8. #8 tim gueguen
    May 10, 2007

    In the early ’90s my brother worked as a DJ for the radio station in Port Hardy, BC, on northern Vancouver Island. One night he was walking home from the station, and was a few houses away from his apartment when someone warned him there was a bear on someone’s front lawn. The bear didn’t come close to him, but it was rather a surprise.

    Large wildlife does sometimes make its way into Saskatoon, despite this being a city of 200,000 in the middle of farmland. 3 or 4 years ago I saw a deer run across a park, leap a tall hedge at the edge of the park, and run across a street into a residential area just across from the University of Saskatchewan. Someone claimed to have seen a cougar within the last couple of years near the river. And police were called out a while back to apprehend a young moose who’d wandered into the west side of the city.

  9. #9 Crudely Wrott
    May 10, 2007

    Years ago, during a tough winter, my father went from the main house to the bunkhouse for some reason. Finishing his task he started back but was confronted by a large bull moose. He tried yelling, waving his arms about and throwing pieces of firewood to encourage the moose to leave. No luck.

    There was a 410 shotgun (a little shotgun for the gunpowder averse, suitable for birds and small varmints) in the bunkhouse. He loaded and cocked, stood in the doorway. The moose had turned away, exposing his rump. My father shot.

    He told me once that he had never been so taken aback in his life as he was by the result of the shot. It would be like you taking a BB in your backside. It stings but it doesn’t do any lasting damage. The moose flinched, grunting. And then slowly sat down. Then slowly lay over. Laid still a moment. My father approached carefully, carrying a just fired single shot weapon. As he drew near the moose let out a long breath and was dead.

    Later, happily dressing out the carcass and thinking of moose meat recipes, my father saw the worn teeth, the graying muzzle, the atrophied leg muscles and knew why the moose died. It was old, tired and malnourished. Tough winter, he said. In other words, it would have died within a few days had my father not supplied the necessary shock to hurry that moment.

    He also said the meat was tougher’n a boot.

    When I was about twelve I surprised a bear that was feeding on a boysenberry bush. Nothing happened.

  10. #10 Deepsix
    May 10, 2007

    I spent five months in Alaska in ’93 working with the Forest Service as a volunteer through the Student Conservation Association. We worked eight days and then six off. For those six days, I would fish nearly nonstop. We always carried a .375 H&H magnum rifle in the unlikely event we ever had to defend ourselves from a bear attack. The only time I felt for sure I was going to be eaten was the day we left the rifle back at camp. We were sure to carry it along after that. Best damn summer of my life.

  11. #11 Deepsix
    May 10, 2007

    Crudely,

    Sounds like the moose probably died from a heart attack rather than the .410. If an old man can survive a blast in the face with a .20 guage from Dick Cheney, then a shot to the rump of a moose with a .410 should be like a bee sting.

  12. #12 Skemono
    May 10, 2007

    I’ve been linked to by PZ. I feel so… accomplished.

  13. #13 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    May 10, 2007

    A M°°se once bit my sister

    Wow!

    But after considering different bites, I think while it is definitely more nervous to be stuck in a large bite from an annoyed horse (but it is still better than an unexpected kick :-|), the most painful and bloodying bites I have got from likewise annoyed small animals. Like the ungrateful little bastard hamster I had to put inside my sweater to keep warm when the rented moving truck broke down in a winter…

    Large animals seems to know they are larger. In any case their dentures are generally less sharp, and it is easier to get them off a bite one way or another.

  14. #14 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    May 10, 2007

    A M°°se once bit my sister

    Wow!

    But after considering different bites, I think while it is definitely more nervous to be stuck in a large bite from an annoyed horse (but it is still better than an unexpected kick :-|), the most painful and bloodying bites I have got from likewise annoyed small animals. Like the ungrateful little bastard hamster I had to put inside my sweater to keep warm when the rented moving truck broke down in a winter…

    Large animals seems to know they are larger. In any case their dentures are generally less sharp, and it is easier to get them off a bite one way or another.

  15. #15 AJay
    May 10, 2007


    Anyone else think that that bear actually plucked the liver rather than the heart? The bear pulls it out way too easily and from not too deep and it comes apart way too easily as he bites chunks out of it. Much more liver-like than heart-like if you ask me. OK, nobody asked. But I’ve disassembled a full grown Holstein [among other things, but that was the closest to a moose] and hearts is tough to get out, compared to a liver. I wonder if the video maker followed up on the carcass after the bear was done? Hmm, from the maker of the videos: “A trooper and a fish and game guy came that same day and dragged the moose about a half mile away where the next in line person on the “moose road kill list” could come and salvage it. It went to a school.” The vid of same.

  16. #16 windy
    May 10, 2007

    Anyone else think that that bear actually plucked the liver rather than the heart?

    *raises hand*

  17. #17 dm
    May 10, 2007

    What a wonderful story. And to think that some people say there is no God.

  18. #18 Crudely Wrott
    May 10, 2007

    Deepsix said, “Sounds like the moose probably died from a heart attack rather than the .410.”

    That was also my father’s best guess. He figured the old boy was so close to his natural end that the shock of the buckshot (bullshot?) was enough to hurry the moment.

  19. #19 Beren
    May 10, 2007

    It’s nice to see that not all our frontiers are digital (: But then, perhaps I’ve been living in big cities for too long.

    One question: the article mentioned that the owners of said driveway started locking their door, in case the bear came back. Surely that wouldn’t do a thing to keep a bear out of your house? I would expect its natural aversion to people would do much more than a bit of metal it can just rip out through the door frame…

    …but then, perhaps it was just to remind the humans to take a look out the window before opening the door?

  20. #20 Nomen Nescio
    May 10, 2007

    It makes me glad I don’t live in Alaska.

    really? because it’s making me kindof sad i don’t live in Alaska, to tell the truth.

    People should ask Skatje about the time she met a moose on a camping trip. [...] I haven’t seen her move that fast since.

    i wouldn’t recommend that strategy, in general; humans can’t outrun moose, so there’s no point trying. but, hey, it obviously worked for her, so…

  21. #21 Nomen Nescio
    May 10, 2007

    Eighty miles north, having not seen a soul in 4 hours, a hiker stepped out of the taiga and threw his thumb out for a ride.

    y’know, you tend to encounter that sort of incongruously surrealistic situations in northernmost Finland, too. must be something about the arctic circle that brings out the weirdness in life, i guess.

    (i was touristing up there once and ran into a British couple who were busily circling the world on their bicycles. judging by their travel plans, i could have encountered them pretty much anywhere else, but it was in the emptiness of the northernmost taiga on an otherwise deserted road that i did meet them — and this did not surprise me at all, not then and not since.)

  22. #22 mooglar
    May 10, 2007

    When I moved to Alaska for a few years, I drove my car up on the Alaska highway. In the Yukon, I came upon a bear, a fairly small brown bear, who was just about to cross the road when it saw me. Right where the bear was there was a little concrete arch under the road to let a small stream pass underneath, and two little cement slabs flanked the road where the arch was.

    The bear — and I swear that this is absolutely true — stopped when it saw me, put its paws on the cement slab and laid its chin on them, waited and watched me go by, and then crossed the road, just like a human would. I half expected it to wave!

    I also drove the Alaska highway back when I moved back down to the Lower 48, and, once again in the Yukon, I came upon a HUGE black bear blocking the road in an unpaved area (they say the entire highway is paved these days, but the definition of “paved” is different in the Yukon). I couldn’t get past, so I stopped, and it came over to the driver’s side and looked at me, perhaps four or five feet away. And I was thinking, “There’s only a little tempered glass and some aluminum between me and that thing,” and just as I was really getting scared and thinking of gunning it, the bear freaked out and ran away like *I* was scaring *it*.

    Fun times.

  23. #23 Leslie C
    May 10, 2007

    Last september in Maine my husband and his friends went bear hunting. I was walking with my dogs several miles away when I came upon a black bear in a berry patch right by the trail. My Lhasa Apso didn’t see it and just kept walking. The bear saw him and apparently thought he looked tastier than berries. My Malamute was so brave – he got between me and the bear and growled and snarled like I’ve never seen before. I waved my arms and hollered my head off, and between the two of us we managed to scare it away. None of the hunters saw any bears at all – when I told my story they decided they were using the wrong bait.

    Leslie

  24. #24 BigHeathenMike
    May 10, 2007

    Bears are godless killing machines and are officially On Notice!. Have been for a long time, Nation. Moving on….

  25. #25 Rich
    May 10, 2007

    I saw a tabby cat in my back yard this morning. Had to be over 15 inches long! Needless to say, my heart is still racing…

  26. #26 Hairhead
    May 10, 2007

    I had a friend who went up into the north of B.C. surveying. There was a party of them, and they would set off from the camp in their different directions and meet up back at the camp for supper. One day, one of them was missing. Since they knew exactly where he was going, they followed his assigned route and about three miles away they found him.

    He was thirty feet up in a tree, sitting on the first branch of an immense conifer. Seems he’d run into a grizzly bear and, fueled by adrenaline swarmed stories straight up the branchless trunk. It took a while to get him down because his fingertips were all ripped up, right to the bone, from his “elevator ride”.

    Amazing what you can do when you have the motivation.

  27. #27 Hairhead
    May 10, 2007

    I had a friend who went up into the north of B.C. surveying. There was a party of them, and they would set off from the camp in their different directions and meet up back at the camp for supper. One day, one of them was missing. Since they knew exactly where he was going, they followed his assigned route and about three miles away they found him.

    He was thirty feet up in a tree, sitting on the first branch of an immense conifer. Seems he’d run into a grizzly bear and, fueled by adrenaline, had swarmed three stories straight up the branchless trunk. Needless to say, he couldn’t get down by himself and he had spent an uncomfortable day waiting for them. It took a while to get him down because his fingertips were all ripped up, right to the bone, from his “elevator ride”.

    Amazing what you can do when you have the motivation.

  28. #28 Hairhead
    May 10, 2007

    I had a friend who went up into the north of B.C. surveying. There was a party of them, and they would set off from the camp in their different directions and meet up back at the camp for supper. One day, one of them was missing. Since they knew exactly where he was going, they followed his assigned route and about three miles away they found him.

    He was thirty feet up in a tree, sitting on the first branch of an immense conifer. Seems he’d run into a grizzly bear and, fueled by adrenaline, had swarmed three stories straight up the branchless trunk. Needless to say, he couldn’t get down by himself and he had spent an uncomfortable day waiting for them. It took a while to get him down because his fingertips were all ripped up, right to the bone, from his “elevator ride”.

    Amazing what you can do when you have the motivation.

  29. #29 Hairhead
    May 10, 2007

    Sorry for the three-post above, but I kept receiving “Internal Error” messages that my action had been interrupted.

  30. #30 SkookumPlanet
    May 11, 2007

    Alright! This blog is finally getting classy. The story is from one of Homer, Alaska’s weekly newspapers. Yes, two of them in a town of 4,000 and both excellent. “Classy” refers not to Homer but it’s environment. More in a bit.

    3 decades ago I lived there a few years. No brown bear in town but moose up the yingyang in winter. My first winter, the woods through which I walked the last 200-feet of unplowed driveway to home was the stomping grounds of a mama moose and a calf. A couple of non-observant times I got within spittin’ distance but she was either mellow or familiar from seeing me most days. You hear a story or two about a moose treeing someone for 12 hours and you acquire a whole new outlook on Bullwinkle. Twice, however, I did get to work late because there was a moose eating breakfast between my front door and my car.

    The summer I arrived in Alaska I noticed early on everyone has bear stories. Each one is more hair-raising than the last. Truly unbelievable animals. [What's worse than running into a brown bear on a trail? Running into a brown bear cub on a trail.] There’s literature available on the subject, Alaska Bear Tales by Larry Kaniut. I’d heard many of the stories before the book’s publication and the one involving a Kenai game biologist and his wife I read in manuscript years before, so Kaniut’s stories are genuine.

    In the Homer Tribune story above, the driveway owner is identified as Gary Lyon. If it’s the same Gary Lyon, he’s one of the better known Homer artists and was around in my days, 30 years ago. The Lyons’ “address” of Skyline Drive means they likely have a picture window that’s 180 degrees of the most beautiful landscape on the planet — Kachemak Bay. I painted a verbal portrait of the bay as a 75-mile-wide, 270-degree landscape amphitheater here at PZ’s a can’t-possibly-be year ago [May 28, 2006, Beauty].

    The best online image I’ve found is this parent panorama of an image from wiki’s page on Homer [full-sized version, folks, it's 3,295 x 1,268 pix]. It’s great resolution depth allows viewing it quite large without pixelation. This, in turn, approaches the scale and emotion of actually being there. The image is also seamless.

    However, it’s roughly half the view-width from Skyline Drive atop the bluff behind town. There’s a quarter more on each side. If you were watching that bear in the driveway and you looked to your right the wiki panorama is what you’d see.

    I lived right there on the near shore of the floatplane lake, about one-third it’s length from the right, just before the forested shore turns to bright green ground cover.

    Real nice, you say, but the most beautiful place on Earth? Here’s one example from many possible choices.

    A friend owned a one-room, shed-roofed, framed “cabin”, two third’s up the bluff on the way to Skyline Drive. The high wall, almost all windows above waist-high, faced the bay. A permanent 2-foot or so shelf ran the length under the windows with seating of 4 or 5 stools attached to the floor. There was one or two normal chairs.

    In that room, if it didn’t require eyeballs, everyone did it looking out the windows. Constantly. The cabin was built around this fact. Eating, debating, telling stories — people didn’t look at each other, they looked at the bay. Sound strange? It wasn’t, it was natural.

    Here’s the story. It’s February or March, around 8 pm, all dark under an overcast sitting a bit higher than the mountaintops across the bay. So say 7,000 feet. There was a full moon above the clouds creating just enough ambient light that faint, disembodied snowy peaks defined those background mountains. Imagine San Francisco Bay seen from atop the Berkeley/Oakland hills and you have an excellent analog of size and shape and view.

    The overcast was less than 10% open, holes actually, on an irregular grid pattern. I’ve forgotten their separation distance, but about 15-20 were visible at a time. The cloudcover moved toward us, diagonally across the bay, barely fast enough to detect motion if you looked for a minute at the star performer, a perfect, stately pace for it.

    You couldn’t see up into the holes, or even see the holes. But, and here’s the kicker, below each one was a half-mile wide, vertical column of white moonlight so well defined and laser-like in the black night they looked tactile and solid. Greek columns scaled up in size and etherealness for the Greek pantheon, they were vertical without visible slant. For a couple hours these wonders, with huge, bright spotlights on the water beneath them, floated toward us like God metaphors. No one can look away from something like this.

    And at some point in there you find yourself thinking, “This is it! Kachemak Bay can’t get any more beautiful.” Then a couple weeks later it does. Again.

  31. #31 Tristram Brelstaff
    May 12, 2007

    People should ask Skatje about the time she met a moose on a camping trip. She did not show up at our tent gnawing on a bloody heart, I guarantee you

    It can’t have been a creationist moose then.

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