Bull Moose, Brainard Lake Sunset, CO (8/22/2015)
I had wanted to see a Bull Moose since I was a child since even then I knew they had the biggest antlers of all deer. Despite numerous trips to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain National Park and Denali, I never saw one. I've seen cow moose and baby moose multiple times but never an impressive bull. In July 2015, we spent a good week in Grand Teton and Yellowstone even staying in the famous Jackson Lake lodge that is famous for moose but still no Bull Moose. I decided to research where to reliably see a Bull Moose. It turns out they are a lot more difficult to see reliably compared to cow moose and babies. If one lives in an area with moose you'll eventually see one but not if one is just visiting for a short time. Moose populations are in decline in most parts of the US due to disease and warming temperatures. The one place the population is increasing is Colorado where Moose were not historically present in large numbers. However, in the 1970s Moose were introduced near Rocky Mountain National Park and the population has steadily increased since then. Despite this, wildlife tour operators at Rocky Mountain National Park told me that they only see a big bull 4 times a year in the park. Places in Maine seem to be fairly reliable but not easy for me to get to. Finally, I found an article about an unfortunate incident where a Bull Moose was killed at a popular recreational area called Brainard Lake that is just 1 hour from Boulder, CO in Sept 2014. It turns out that this area has numerous Bull Moose since it has large quantities of the willows they prefer whereas the surrounding areas do not. Apparently in the summer months 5-10 Bulls gather in this area and have become habituated to campers, hikers and the numerous photographers that flock to Brainard to see Bull Moose among beautiful mountains and lakes. Very few Moose hunting licences are issued in Colorado but unfortunately a hunter decided to shoot one of the magnificient bulls right at Brainard Lake where the Moose have no fear of humans. It was a legal hunt but the ethics were highly questionable since there was no sport in killing these habituated moose. The scene unfolded in front of numerous photographers and wildlife watchers, and kids leading to a major controversy. The good news is the hunting laws have now been changed to prevent hunting near the lake to prevent this from occuring again. In August I had to be in Boulder for work so I decided to visit Brainard Lake to try my luck. Amazingly, I arrived in the evening and immediately found this enormous Bull and was able to get photos in great light. Seeing a mature Bull in person is just an amazing experience. This fellow really did have a pleasant look on his face as he ate from his favorite willows.
These willows are actually quite tall but the bull easily towers above them while he uses his tongue to get at the fresh leaves.
The challenge for photographing the bull was that he mostly had his head down in the willows so one had to be patient to get him looking up.
I was told this bull weighed well over 1000 lbs and his antlers spanned over 5 feet!
As the sun went down I caught a glimpse of his bell as the light quickly diminished.
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