Alaska is filled with an incredible diversity of wildlife. There are marvelous creatures we don’t see often in the lower 48, and it is difficult to truly understand their majesty and power. For our trip this past week we compiled a “bucket list” of animals we hoped to see in the wild. Moose were at the very top, so we checked it off on the very first day.
Travel days are hard, especially with a 4 hour time change. We awoke at 3:45am, flew across the country, arrived in Alaska at 1pm (which felt like 5pm), ate, and then drove south toward Seward along the Turnagain Arm. To battle our desire to sleep we kept busy: we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC)! This amazing rehab facility takes in injured or abandoned animals. Visitors get to see Alaskan wildlife up close, without hurting them or getting hurt. As we walked the grounds it was easy to stay alert; we got personal with musk ox (I’ll circle back to these guys later this week), wood bison, caribou, wolves, bears, and the behind of a very uninterested porcupine.
Of course, the biggest draw was the moose. We were able to get great views of the moose as they wandered about the enclosure, and a very personal encounter when one bull moose decided to cool off in the water. It was fantastic to see them so close, and served as a powerful reminder of their size and strength.
As much as I wished to see a moose in the wild, I wouldn’t want to have the personal experience Jack the Moose and I shared at AWCC without the fence between us. Moose are dangerous. They get scared and aggressive.
Moose seriously injure dog teams and mushers out on the trail. Earlier this year musher Bridgett Watkins had a terrifying encounter during a training run. Those of us from the lower 48 find moose fascinating – even mythical, akin to the wonder of seeing a unicorn. But we need to remember that we are invading their home, and in the wild we should keep our distance, no matter how adorable we think they are.
Did I say adorable? At AWCC we caught two baby moose being bottle fed a snack. And it was ADORABLE. Possibly the cutest thing ever. Topped only when they walked away with their long gangly legs and then I just melted at their loveable awkwardness.
So did we ever see a moose in the wild? Yes. We caught sight of one along the Parks Highway up to Denali, two cooling off outside of Healy, and the final morning, as we headed south out of Cantwell, we pulled over to watch a mama and baby. I was happy to see them in the wild, from a very safe distance, and grateful I saw one up close at AWCC.
Library Learnings: Want students to notice a book? Put it on display! Kids are intrigued, even if it isn’t a topic they thought they’d be interested in. I have one book in my library that is checked out regularly because, as soon as it is returned, it goes back on display. What is this book, you ask? A Moose’s World by Caroline Arnold. Why is it on display? Because, similar to a moose, it is extra large and awkwardly shaped, and it simply doesn’t fit on the shelf. So we display it. And it gets read. A lot. I challenge you to create a book display in your classroom highlighting titles to interest your reluctant readers.