Account From the Field, June 2021.

The cooperation of moose and deer mothers and eating dinner with a juvenile moose.

Douglas Balmain

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Snowberry, Wild Mock Orange, Woods Rose, and Kinnikinnick border the edge of the young aspen thicket.

Journal Entry: 06.15.2021

[Camp. No-Tell’um Gulch, Helena National Forest, Montana.]

This morning while I was getting my cook fire going, I heard some branches break in an aspen thicket that runs right up against the camp. I got quiet and still and watched. More branches breaking. First to hop out was a spotted fawn — it must’ve been practically newborn — followed by its mom. The fawn half-bounded past me, but the doe remained at an unalarmed walk. As they moved past me up the hill more branches in the thicket were breaking and something heavier moving through. Soon to follow the doe was a mature cow moose that the density of the young aspens had completely concealed. I was calm, but my scenes hyper-alert. We were extremely close — but I had to believe that she had heard, smelled, seen me and my camp and was not surprised by our proximity. She stood still and looked at me while I continued to hear movement followed by the arrival of her calf, which was growing quite large. I’m not sure when moose typically birth, but it must’ve been at least a few months old. The doe and fawn moved off up the hill but the moose lingered a bit. I gave them a very slow and smooth wave and verbal, “Hello…” Their ears cocked back a bit and they gave me a stare that I interpreted loosely as a sort of reserved acknowledgement before they continued on in the path of the doe and her fawn. What I found most interesting was the observation of two mother-baby pairs of separate species moving together. It suggests a communication/cooperation between their species. Of course it’s possible that the path-of-travel and togetherness of these four was coincidental — but it certainly did not have the look or feel of coincidence. It looked like two mothers agreeing to travel together while helping each other to keep a lookout. Later in the day I spotted both pairs in their daybeds. They were in a similar region, down in a low wetland where the undergrowth is tall and the air is cool. While they certainly weren’t bedded down together, the pairs were less than 100 yards apart…and their afternoon location was almost directly opposite their morning paths of travel, suggesting that they must’ve completed a similar…

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