Missy Moosey n’ Me

It’s hard to keep me inside when it’s a sunny day.  If it’s overcast, the minute I see any blue sky peek through, I grab my camera and I’m out of the house within 10 minutes.  Okay, maybe not 10, but definitely within an hour.  On this particular day, I did just that and without a destination planned, decided on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Cheney, WA. 

I love when there aren’t a lot of cars on the 5-mile auto path, because if I see an animal of any kind, I’ll get out and start snapping. When there are a lot of folks on the path, cars come down and will either keep driving or park and come see what I found.  There are a few times someone has driven past with their stereo blasting. (I was so not happy.) Although, most people are respectful, there’s always that one person that walks over to me and has to talk about what I’m photographing.  It’s quite annoying and since I love people, I will point and move away, nicely.  I always pretend I’m getting a different angle so I don’t appear rude.  I have lost several shots due to that happening.

I really needed to be out in the fresh air and in nature, in some capacity.  Turnbull is always perfect for that.  I began the auto tour with a little smile on my face.  I like weekdays since people work and there are very few people.  My routine is turning off the music, pulling my hat above my ears (in winter), so I can hear the birds, and keeping both front windows down.  If I see something on the right side, and I can’t get out of the car quick enough, I lean over and shoot out the window.  I’ve gotten a beautiful hawk shot by doing that. A 5-mile tour takes me a very long time, since I’m always pulling over and stopping for a while.   

I wasn’t very far into my drive when I saw something move to the right of my car.  It’s very hard to see a moose in the trees and brush, because they blend in, but all I needed to do was see the leaves move and I knew I was golden

Sometimes, I forget to get out of my car slowly whenever I see any wildlife.  I know, I know, I’ve heard it a million times.  

“Pay attention to your surroundings, Allie.” 

“Keep your wits about you.”  

“Slow down.”  

“Be vigilant.” 

The thing is, I get excited and I’m like a 5-year-old, because all I want to do is see, now! Plus, I’m always worried I won’t get the shot quick enough.

I kept my eyes on the moving leaves while I grabbed my camera and slowly got out of my car. I had to make sure my ringer was off on my iPhone because the ringer is an eagle cry, and it scares just about anything in my path. (You should see what happens at grocery store.)

The moose was a young female and was enjoying eating from the bushes and flowers.  I am big on respecting wildlife and always make sure I stay far enough back, so I don’t disturb them.  Sometimes, it’s not possible since they are so close, and I stick by my car in that situation.

I had my new zoom lens, 150-600mm and was excited to try it out.  I began snapping and my camera is not silent, so she was looking at me, but didn’t seem to care.  Food was her first priority. 

I put my camera down a couple of times and just stood, watching her. Eventually, she crossed the road into another field, and I lost sight of her. It was a wonderful photo opportunity, that’s for sure.

I got back into my car to continue on the auto tour, but decided to pull over and stop at the lake.  I was enjoying the quiet until I heard ruffling leaves.  I thought maybe the entire moose family was coming down, so I grabbed my camera and slowly got out of the car.  (yes, slowly)

When I turned around, it was the little moose coming out of the woods.  It was then I began to talk to her in a soft voice.  I know it may sound odd to some folks, but why not? I mean, it was just the 2 of us and she’d been alone, so I wasn’t afraid the parents would show up or anyone else. 

I found out later that she was orphaned and was most likely about 6 months old.  She looked healthy and content.  I needed a name to call her since we were spending so much time together.(insert cheesy grin)  I named her Missy Moosey.  

I kept talking to her in a low, calm voice and she started to slowly walk towards me. 

When I realized she was getting a little too close, I started backing up towards my car.  She watched and smiled at the nervous human with curiosity, but not feeling threatened or afraid. It was as if time had stopped and we were the only ones in the world. I’m not kidding, it was intense and amazing.

When Missy was about 20 feet away, I finally had to jump in my car.  More than anything I wanted to let her come to me, but she is a wild animal and unless injured, they should never know human touch.  

Now, I’ve been told by some grandstanders that Missy’s posture was a sign of stress and she was possibly going to lunge after me.  I know the signs; head down, ears back, hair up on the hump and eyes on me.  The thing was, I wasn’t afraid of that and I knew she wasn’t feeling threatened.  How? I just did.   

I started to get back into my car since the sun was starting to set and she was going into the brush at the water.  Missy stopped and turned to look at me, as if to say, “Are you coming or not?”  She was totally calm and quite beautiful to look at as the sun was setting.   Of course, I stayed close to my car with the door open, just in case, but for some reason, I wasn’t afraid. If she had felt threatened in any way, she’d have been long gone. 

I thanked Missy for letting me take a lot of photos of her and for keeping me company.  I felt bad that she was raising herself, but comforted in knowing she was safe at the refuge.  There were volunteers and keepers that kept eyes on her, constantly. 

I told her I had to go before I got locked inside the park and when I said that, she turned away and began to walk down the road, never looking back.

Missy gave me some opportunities for wonderful photos and for that hour or so, I will never forget how at peace I felt.  She was just what I needed.  I waved goodbye, although I was waving to thin air, because she was already out of sight and it was time to go.  And really, what did I think she’d do? Wave back?

She knew when enough was enough. But, for me, it would never be enough.

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