When we moved up to Silver Gate some 22 years ago moose were a part of the landscape. It was not uncommon to spot twenty on a drive from Pebble Creek to Silver Gate. In the fall half a dozen bulls would hang out in the willows below our cabin. A bull even held court above us one autumn. He dug his tank about 50 yards upslope and lured in a couple of cows. I would go up every now and then to check on them and was surprised once to find a cow hung up on a downed lodge pole pine. She had managed to get her front half over the deadfall but could not clear her rear. The bull kept coming at her and she would lurch and strain but couldnít pull herself over. I did not know how long this had been going on and felt she might expire from exhaustion so I decided to get my chainsaw. Luckily, because the bull did not want me anywhere near his cow, the roar of the saw so frightened her she gave a huge lurch and cleared first one leg than the other.
Twenty years ago a lot of summer homes around us had spring fed water systems. A neighbor of ours was noticing his water had a strange taste. This went on for a couple weeks when he climbed up slope to check on his water source. He found a moose had somehow fallen into his water tank.
Moose were common.
By the late 90ís moose sightings were less so. Some autumns we would see nary a bull. The obvious answer was to blame the wolves but only once did I come across a moose carcass that had been fed on by wolves. Even then it was inconclusive as to how the cow died. On the other hand I had come across grizzlies on fresh moose carcasses on four occasions, even witnessing the actual kill twice.
We also had road construction in our area covering five summers ending in 2009.
Last year a couple of bulls appeared near Sheep Creek. Also a younger bull and a couple of cows with calves.
Last week three bulls descended on our area. They appear to be the same trio as 2010. On Saturday morning I got word they were in the willows between our cabin and Silver Gate, so I rushed down. To my amazement the two larger bulls were sparring! They locked horns two to three more times before separating and moving back into the willows to bed down. Not much happened the rest of the day and when I left at dusk they were lying close together.
I was getting ready to go out and look for them the next morning when Cindy exclaimed they were just behind our cabin! As we watched, they suddenly trotted down to the highway and locked horns briefly before disappearing into the trees. I grabbed my gear and circled around to find them feeding in the willows along the Soda Butte. They quickly got used to me and we spent the next hour together. The only sounds were snapping willows, hooves scrapping on frozen earth and horns clacking on spruce boughs.