It happened in the winter of 2021. I was with a good friend Arne spending the day photographing raptors at a hide in Skåne, Sweden. A lovely day and the photography was excellent. Sea eagles, Golden eagles, Red kites, Buzzards… Feeling happy and satisfied at the end of the day, we close the hide and start the walk from the hide to the car, a distance of about 500 metres along a narrow path in a swampy land. It is already dark. I have about 20 kilos of photo equipment on my back, rubber boots on my feet to walk through the swamp, and headlights on my forehead to find my way in the dark. In my hands is an empty lunch bag and a few empty thermos drink bottles. We had trudged about 100 metres in the swamp when I could make out what looked to me like the silhouette of two small animals in the distance. They looked like deer.  I tell Arne this, he doesn’t believe me at first. We walk a bit closer, and then we see the larger silhouette of a dark form behind the smaller shapes. It was then we realized that we were looking at a Moose family! A Mamma and her two calves stopped in their tracks while heading into the woods. They had, of course, seen us coming even before we saw them and had paused to ponder this new situation. And so we found ourselves in a conundrum: we were heading out of the forest and they were coming in and there was just a narrow path for both of us.  Think of it as a one-way street. As happens in the human world, we cannot share the path by stepping aside while passing each other with a brief nod and be on our way. The stand-off now began at a distance of 10-15 metres from each other; Me and Arne on one end, while the Moose and her babies at the other end, both unsure of what to do next. The Mamma Moose showed no inclination of backing down. She had arrived first and had right of way. Looking back now, what we should have done is slip off our backpacks, drop our bags by the side of the path, slowly retrace our steps back to the safety of the hide, and let them continue on their way to wherever Moose go for the night. They, of course, had no interest in our bags, and we could get them later. But, like they say hindsight is 20 20 and there we were standing feeling absolutely vulnerable and totally unprepared for what would happen next. The Mama Moose then decides to make the first move. Moose are very shy animals but, the maternal instinct is a powerful emotion and she was going to protect her kids from this flaming-eyed monster standing in their way. You see we were standing there in the dark with our two headlamps turned on, which might have appeared to be the fiery eyes of a strange threatening beast. I cannot be too sure of the exact Moose thoughts going through her mind.  But she takes a few steps forward and then charges, stopping just a few metres short.  She was so close that I could see her beautiful dark coat glistening in the lamplight and the fur on her back all bristled up. I would later read that when the fur on their back bristles like that, it is a sign they are highly stressed and are ready to attack. However, this first charge was a bluff or I wouldn’t be here to tell this tale. A warning…. “Back off from my kids!” she seemed to say. Imagine what was going through our minds – dread, fear, rising panic. Here we were confronted by an anxious, 400 kilo animal that with one kick from those powerful frontal hooves could break my ribs and collapse my lungs. And if that did not kill me, I would be hospitalized for a long time. The thought flashes through my mind that if I am able to outrun Arne it would increase my odds at survival and I was quickly ashamed at myself for even thinking of letting a friend down. Now the Mama Moose steps forward again a second time and makes another charge, this time coming even closer. It is another bluff and she trots away after the charge. If we do nothing, she probably senses our fear and the next charge may be real. I was not waiting to find out as I turn to Arne and we both stupidly decide to take this head-on. We start flailing our arms and hollering like crazy as we start moving forward. You would be surprised how loud you can be and how feverish your waving can be in a situation like this.  Strangely this wild move helps us cover some ground as the Moose family steps back a bit at our madness. Encouraged and like foot soldiers in a battle, we get louder making all kinds of noises, the flailing becomes wilder and we start running forward. We cover more ground as they slowly back off. Sensing an opening we press on,  shouting till our throats was hoarse and dry but we press on not wanting to lose our momentum. It was the longest 400 metres of my life all the way to the cars. The poor animals were now in full-blown panic. Once there, the Moose and her calves circle around the cars, lose each other, find each other again and set off on the path into the darkness of the woods. I was left so scared and sweating. That was a really close call.  I kicked myself for not having my phone with me to document a picture. I had forgotten it in the car that morning before leaving for the hide. But I will take the memory of this evening encounter long after I am old and senile and will be the last thing I will probably not remember. We had taken great photographs that day, even some of the mighty Golden eagle. But, all I could think of was this Moose family. The next day I call Göran in whose forest this happened to ask him if he sighted the Moose. I wanted to see them again, but this time on my terms and perhaps photograph them.  A few days later he tips me off of a  Moose at the sugar beets fields. I drive up to the forest and spend the entire day driving around and scanning the fields and the edge of the forest. But nothing, no sign of them. And, after that it became a ritual whenever I was in that part of Skåne, mornings, evenings, parked on the roadside standing, leaning on my car,  eyes glued to my binoculars scanning the forest. Days would pass, weeks, months I never saw them again. 

Fast forward to August 2022, I am in eastern Finland to photograph bears and wolves. After some exciting nights at the hides, I get a tip about a Great Gray owl nesting in a forest about 200 km away. The Great Gray ‘the ghost of the boreal forest’ – what an opportunity! I couldn’t pass this up. So I make the trip to the forest one evening, but as you might have guessed, this story is not about the Great Gray. Now, I am on my way back to the camp on a forest road. It is after 9 PM. There is still some light left as I am so far up in the northern hemisphere. And then it happens again! Two small animals scurry across the road.  Moose calves! Followed by a mother who was just emerging from the woods while the calves were already halfway across the road. But too late for the Mama Moose,  she sees my car,  hesitates and turns back into the woods. The kids complete the crossing, take a glance at me and run away into the forest. I stop the car and peer into the woods. Somewhere in there is an anxious mother watching me. Her babies are on the other side of the road and probably in the forest, but her fear of my presence on the road holds her back. She will not dare make the crossing. I peer through the dense foliage and soon find her brown coat and those beautiful big eyes. I carefully place my lens on the window sill of my car. Finding her through my lens and between the trees and branches was like focusing through a keyhole. With some difficulty,  I manage a few pictures and leave quickly, not wanting to stress her any further. I do not look back to see her cross the road to reunite with the calves nor did I ever return to the forests in Sweden to search for the Moose family again. As far as I was concerned the circle was complete.  I had found closure. 


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