By Ken Marsh

Here in Alaska our moose, Alces alces gigas, are icons. The subspecies designation gigas is Latin for “giant,” a fair descriptor for deer that can weigh more than three quarters of a ton. Casting Ice Age silhouettes they stand on lanky legs, faces characterized by exaggerated proboscises, the bulls crowned with antlers that may span beyond six feet (two meters). They populate much of the state, ranging from the Stikine River in Southeast to the Colville River in the high Arctic, the Interior, Southwest and Southcentral.

Distracted by the autumn rut, or breeding season, bull moose often discard their fear of humans. With hormone-swollen necks and menacing antlers, they strut dangerously through Alaska’s wildest corners and biggest cities alike, searching for cows – and for trouble, in the form of other bulls or anything else alive or inanimate they might perceive as a challenge. Rutting moose here are known to take on anything from mailboxes to Alaska Railroad engines.

A bull moose pauses among black spruce bordering an alpine meadow.

All photos ©Ken Marsh

Autumn is brief, and abruptly followed by winter. The days now own a rare, cold beauty, but they’re also dreadfully short. Lit in pink alpenglow and framed by lavender sky, the mountains back a sweeping tapestry of muskegs, forests, and ice-covered rivers and lakes. On a ridge overlooking a creek bottom, a moose pauses in a glade surrounded by birches bent like arches under heavy loads of snow. Beyond the glade brush snaps and snow showers fall from a spruce thicket. The moose bolts from the sound, leaving in its wake a thin veil of ice fog.

A cow moose reaches high to nibble birch twigs on a subzero December day.

All photos ©Ken Marsh

2 thoughts on “Forest King

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