The Westgate Moose

721 words (about 3 minutes to read)

We live in the Westgate neighbourhood in Calgary. It's “inner city”, which is not really an accurate statement though everyone tells me that's correct — to be picky, we're about halfway out of the city. Despite being tucked well beyond our borders and fairly well separated from the green spaces, we periodically get some interesting visitors.

I was in the backyard, doing backyard work. Nothing particular strenuous, probably just tending to the irises that grow behind the outdoor fireplace that's in need of a rebuild. That I was doing something isn't the important part, however, it's that I was outside. And being outside was important, because that's how I heard the call: “Moose!”

To be clear, not the call of the moose. One of our next door neighbours was in her yard, doing whatever it was that she was doing, but echoed the cry from other houses further down the alley. “There's a moose in the alley!”

I perked my ears — I mean, honestly, who doesn't think that's a strange statement to begin with? — and walked over to the alley fence (also in need of a rebuild) and peek over the edge.

I blinked. The moose blinked back. I slowly backed away from the fence, turned, sprinted and ran into the house, ran to my camera all the while shouting “there's a moose in the alley!” to my family, and bolted back outside to find our visitor casually stopping for a drink.

Now I'm no biologist, nor do I have the faintest idea of moose anatomy beyond they're part of the deer family, have massive antlers, and you really, really, really don't want to run into one (literally) with your car, ‘cuz they'll just shrug it off like you would a mosquito, leaving you in a crumpled pile of metal, but I could tell that this was a juvenile, because we could literally look him in the eyes.

Yes, I'm going with “him”. It could have been a “her”. I genuinely don't know. But there's buds on the head that are where antlers would grow, and cows don't grow antlers.

He stayed a while in our alley, taking advantage of all the lovely leaves that our overgrown trees throw over the fences. (One advantage of being in an older neighbourhood: bigger trees.) The neighbours who knew about the moose, of course, flooded into the alley to watch. Most of us — like most people who've ever seen a moose — haven't seen one who wasn't penned up in a zoo. (I'd only ever seen two moose ever before, which crossed a road in front of me so many years ago I don't really remember where.) This moose was pretty chill, nonchalant, and didn't give a moose hoot about the humans watching it.

He munched his way down the alley, taking his time, not concerned in the slightest about being corralled in an alley. I stayed in front of him with a wide margin of safety, namely mine (and the others further back in the alley) — I didn't want to spook him, nor did I want even a half-grown moose wanting to charge me. Eventually wandering out of the alley, he walked back up our street, right in front of our home to the amazement of both of my kids, eventually settling on a lawn a couple of houses away, where he stayed well after dark, slipping away under cover of night and bright street lights.

This isn't quite the end of the story, though.

The next day, the family was out on family things (possibly a dental appointment, I'm not really sure). I returned from work by bike, swinging in through the gate as I often do, depositing my ancient wheels in the shed. I went inside and got myself sorted, stripping the very stinky bike clothes and showering, and started to work on dinner. As I worked away in the kitchen, I happened to glance out the back window.

The gate that I had come in through was open. I swore to myself that I had closed the gate. Given, we have a bum latch, but … well, why was the gate open? Then I thought: Moose.

Walking slowly towards the french doors that lead into the backyard, I saw our friend sitting next to our garden.