The foolish things males will do to impress females are certainly known by everyone reading this, but human mating rituals are tame and safe compared to those of the animals still of the wild.
Every fall in Alaska there are males that fight to the death for the chance to procreate with a cooperative female or females.
An acquaintance of Jeff Erickson of Unalakleet found these two, unfortunate, battling bull moose dead and frozen in the ice of the North River, a branch of the Unalakleet River, near the Bering Sea this week.
Erickson lives in the village of Unalkaleet some 400 miles northwest of Anchorage. It is home to about 700 people and now two less moose.
Erickson said one of the moose might have been killed in the battle for the opportunity to breed a cow moose, and the other moose ended up with its antlers interlocked in those of its dead challenger.
“It appears that one of the brow tines (on the antler) penetrated and may have ended this (battle) fast, leaving the ‘winner’ with a 1000 lb headdress and probably pulled his head into the water where he drowned,”Erickson messaged.
It was something of a fluke the moose were found, he added.
The moose were “in a slough behind the large bible camp,” Erickson said. “A friend was checking on some out buildings, steamhouse and kayak/canoe launch. Another fellow was with who was on his first winter in Alaska and had never walked on ice. The slough was glare, see-through ice…so he decided to go for a slip-slide walk down the slough a little ways. Moose horns were sticking out of water.
“Kinda ironic that they very likely could’ve gone completely unnoticed and probably never been seen/found if he hadn’t had his virgin ice-walking experience.”
The carcasses were discovered just before winter started trying to bury the site beneath snow.
By the time Erickson and friends returned to the site with a four-wheeler, a trailer and a chainsaw with which to salvage the antlers, the remains of the two poor, dead moose were covered with snow and their bodies showed only as eerie outlines beneath the snow cover.
The heads were recovered.
Erickson plans to salvage the still entangled antlers and save them as a reminder of the cold, harsh reality of nature.
Meanwhile, the dead moose are becoming something of an internet sensation. Since Erickson first posted photos on Facebook, he’s seen them popping up on numerous websites though few have bothered to ask permission to reprint.
“They are all over the place now,” he said. “Kinda scary what the internet does when things go viral.”
And, of course, as usual when something like this goes viral, there are people coming out of the tubes to argue the photos aren’t real but Photoshopped. That’s probably not a bad thing. In a world where it is so easy to fake so much, it is good to be skeptical.
But, in this case, as Erickson can testify, the photos are sadly real.
This is life and death in still wild Alaska.