I generally think we are pretty conscious of wildlife in our neighborhood. We are blessed to live in the Teton County affordable homes near Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis and have a number of regulations in place to protect wildlife like no outdoor pets or dogs allowed. We minimize our conflicts with bears by securing attractants and have a bear proof dumpster. Working on wildlife issues, I am maybe even a little more critical than most people in Teton County. Unfortunately this didn’t stop a totally preventable incident that I had with a moose in October 2013.
My wife and I were awoken at 2:00 in the morning by what sounded like a person and a sledge hammer pounding on the outside of our house. We jumped to our feet and I grabbed a shotgun while she grabbed a flashlight. Sneaking down the stairs, the sound got louder and it literally sounded like someone forcing their way through our house using a bulldozer. The adrenaline was racing as we realized it was the back door and the door jumped with another clash shaking the house. Obviously this was not some burglar trying to sneak in unannounced.
We turned the flashlight on peering out the window, looking eye to fiery red eye with a large bull moose thrashing on our porch. Quickly we jumped back as his antler ripped the molding off our door and his hoof crashed off the window. Immediately I knew what had happened. We were given a backpacking parachute hammock as a wedding gift and had this hanging from a rafter on our back porch because of the nice fall weather. Because it was attached with climbing webbing and carabineers, this moose wasn’t going anywhere.
We had to think fast because the moose was thrashing and we were worried he would break his neck in his efforts to free himself. I quickly thought to text a friend who works at Wyoming Game and Fish, but obviously they were sleeping. Next thought was grab a ski pole, a knife, and a roll of duct tape and to climb onto the roof and cut the hammock free. Susan quickly brought me back to my senses on that one. After weighing our options, I ended up calling 911 and telling the dispatcher this wasn’t an emergency but that we could really use a hand if an officer was in the area.
Two Teton County Sheriff’s deputies quickly arrived and we made a plan to “crowd” out the moose by distracting it with a spotlight while an officer reached through the door and cut the climbing webbing. Without immobilization drugs our hope was that the moose would run off with what was left of the hammock and would hopefully rub the remains off on a tree or else it would shed the antler in the winter and be free of the nuisance. At least it would be free of the house and risk of injury or even death by breaking its neck (as we learned was the fate of a different moose, the same week as our encounter). The plan worked and the deputy was able to cut the moose free. He stumbled away in the dark shaking his head as we sat up the rest of the night filled with adrenalin over what had just happened.
As it turns out, a group of concerned photographers saw the moose in the coming weeks and notified Wyoming Game and Fish, who darted and immobilized the moose, removing the remaining hammock and carabiners, which they were concerned might get caught on a tree or block his vision, causing injury from another rutting bull. Thanks to both Wyoming Game and Fish and the Sheriff’s office for their efforts to protect this moose.
We can only imagine if we hadn’t been home that night, coming home to a 1,000 lb. animal twisted up dead on our porch. As a member of our HOA board, I am now sure to send a reminder each fall to our neighbors to remove any hammocks, swings, clotheslines, hoses, Christmas tree lights, or other items on our porches or in our yards that wildlife might get twisted and caught in. This is especially critical during September and through the fall as rut is occurring and elk, deer and moose are charged up with the breeding season. We felt terrible that this occurred because we became overly complacent in keeping our porch clear of obstacles. Thankfully the moose survived and was able to breed another season. We saw the moose the next winter with an eartag left in his ear from Game and Fish and thought back on our encounter. Hopefully others can learn from our mistake and make an effort to make their yards safe through Wild Neighborhoods. Is your yard free of obstacles and attractants to wildlife?
Photo Credit: Mark Gocke, Wyoming Game and Fish Department.