Here in Interior Alaska, moose are a fact of life. You drive with one eye out for moose—they are big enough and leggy enough that if you hit one, there is a very good chance it will come through the windshield and kill you. Not that the moose—or the car—will be in much better shape.

They love anything in the cabbage family—cabbage, broccoli, turnips, cauliflower—and they aren’t content with eating the occasional plant top. They will go down a row and take one bite out of every head of cabbage, for instance. Small decorative trees have to be protected in the winter, when moose are living on twigs and dormant buds. Fences are merely a nuisance—they used to step right over the 5’ woven wire fence around my property, especially in winter.

They can be dangerous—moose have trampled people to death. I’ve never actually been attacked, but my dogs have scared me silly a time or two. The Shelties used to be quite certain they could run off a moose, and Dot, my Border Collie, was totally confident she could herd one. Unfortunately moose don’t agree. As far as they are concerned, dogs are wolves, and they’ve had to fight wolves to survive for generations. They’re very good at it—much better than the dogs are at dodging moose hooves.

They do disappear during hunting season.

On the whole, I enjoy having moose around. I will grab the camera and take pictures if they come into the yard or are browsing just outside the fence, and I pause to watch them—warily—if I happen to see one near the highway, though I don’t try to take pictures when I’m driving. I do worry a bit about them when I’m riding my tricycle, even though the bike path I use is right beside a road. But my biggest moose scare involved one of the dogs, specifically, Dot.

Dot was already trained to herd when I got her. She taught me a lot about the sport, and I showed her at ranch dog level at both the Tanana Valley and Anchorage Fairs. We also attended the Aussie Fling in Anchorage a few times, and she got her Advanced Trial Dog title on ducks and her Open titles on sheep and cattle. (As to how she got the title on sheep, you’re welcome to pop over to http://bowlingsite.mcf.com/Border/Dot.html.) Suffice it to say that she did not always obey my “that’ll do,” which means “Stop herding and come back to me.” She was, however, reliable enough that I had no problem walking the tenth of a mile to get the mail with her loose at my side.

We were returning from the mailbox, almost to my driveway, when Dot suddenly alerted and went into her Border Collie crouch. I glanced idly across my front yard, and froze. Dot was already starting her outrun, but it wasn’t a sheep in the yard. It was a moose. A large moose, with a very small calf at its side. Moose are dangerous to wolves—and dogs—at the best of times. A mother moose protecting her calf…

Dot’s intentions were clear. She was bred to bring sheep to her handler, and she obviously had every intention of bringing this moose to me. The moose, just as clearly, considered Dot a wolf that was after her calf. The huge ears went down, the hair on the neck stood up, and I knew she wasn’t going to be content with just killing my dog.

“Dot,” I screamed as I speeded up my walk down the driveway toward the house door, “that’ll do.”

I don’t know whether Dot was in an exceptionally cooperative mood or whether she’d noticed that this was larger than any sheep of her experience, but she obeyed more promptly than at any trial we’d ever attended. I grabbed her collar and we both retreated indoors–fast. The moose didn’t hang around long—no doubt she was looking for a place without wolves.

I’ve seen plenty of moose since. I grow my broccoli in pots in the old dog runs, behind 6’ chain link. I don’t think it would stop a really determined moose, but there are plenty of other things to eat during gardening season. Besides, moose are fun to watch—as long as you don’t get in their way!

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